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First published 1 939 



PARTS I and II of this book were published in 
German in Imago in 1937; Part III has not 
previously appeared in print. 

I am indebted to Mr. James Strachey and Mr. 
Wilfred Trotter for kindly reading through this 
translation and for making a number of valuable 
suggestions. I have also had the advantage of 
consulting the author on some doubtful points. 

K.J: ' 











1. The Historical Premisses 95 

2. Latency Period and Tradition - 107 

3. The Analogy - - - 116 

4. Application - - - 129 

5. Difficulties - - - - 148 




1. Summary - - - - - 163 

2. The People of Israel - - 166 

3. The Great Man - - - 169 

4. The Progress in Spirituality - 176 

5 . Renunciation versus Gratification 182 

6. The Truth in Religion - 193 

7. The Return of the Repressed - 197 

8. The Historical Truth - - - 201 

9. The Historical Development - 207 


INDEX - - - 219 


Part I 

To deny a people the man whom it praises as 
the greatest of its sons is not a deed to be under- 
taken light-heartedly especially by one belong- 
ing to that people. No consideration, however, 
will move rne to set aside truth in favour 
of supposed national interests. Moreover, the 
elucidation of the mere facts of the problem may 
be expected to deepen our insight into the 
situation with which they are concerned. 

The man Moses, the liberator of his people, who 
gave them their religion and their laws, belonged 
to an age so remote that the preliminary question 
arises whether he was an historical person or a 
legendary figure. If he lived, his time was the 
thirteenth or fourteenth century B.C.; we have 
no word of him but from the Holy Books and 
the written traditions of the Jews. Although 
the decision lacks final historical certainty, the 
great majority of historians have expressed the 
opinion that Moses did live and that the exodus 
from Egypt, led by him, did in fact take place. 


It has been maintained with good reason that 
the later history of Israel could not be understood 
if this were not admitted. Science to-day has 
become much more cautious and deals much 
more leniently with tradition than it did in the 
early days of historical investigation. 

What first attracts our interest in the person of 
Moses is his name, which is written Mosche in 
Hebrew. One may well ask: Where does it 
come from ? What does it mean ? As is well 
known, the story in Exodus, Chapter ii, already 
answers this question. There we learn that the 
Egyptian princess who saved the babe from the 
waters of the Nile gave him his name, adding the 
etymological explanation: because I drew him 
out of the water. But this explanation is obviously 
inadequate. " The biblical interpretation of the 
name ' He that was drawn out of the water 5 " 
thus an author of the Judisches Lexikon 1 "is folk 
etymology; the active Hebrew form itself of the 
name (Mosche can at best mean only ' the 
drawer out 5 ) cannot be reconciled with this 
solution." This argument can be supported by 
two further reflections : first, that it is nonsensical 
to credit an Egyptian princess with a knowledge 
of Hebrew etymology, and, secondly, that the 
water from which the child was drawn was most 
probably not the water of the Nile. 

1 Judisches Lexikon, founded by Herlitz und Kirschner, Bd. IV, 
1930, Jiidischer Verlag, Berlin. 


On the other hand the suggestion has long been 
made and by many different people that the name 
Moses derives from the Egyptian vocabulary. 
Instead of citing all the authors who have voiced 
this opinion I shall quote a passage from a recent 
work by Breasted, 1 an author whose History of 
Egypt is regarded as authoritative. "It is 
important to notice that his name, Moses, was 
Egyptian. It is simply the Egyptian word ' mose ' 
meaning * child/ and is an abridgement of a 
fuller form of such names as ' Amen -mose ' 
meaning c Amon-a-child 5 or ' Ptah-mose, 5 mean- 
ing c Ptah -a -child, 5 these forms themselves being 
likewise abbreviations for the complete form 
* Amon-(has-given)-a child 5 or Ptah -(has -given) - 
a -child. 5 The abbreviation ' child 5 early became 
a convenient rapid form for the cumbrous full 
name, and the name Mose, c child, 5 is not un- 
common on the Egyptian monuments. The father 
of Moses without doubt prefixed to his son 5 s name 
that of an Egyptian god like Amon or Ptah, and 
this divine name was gradually lost in current 
usage, till the boy was called ' Mose. 5 (The final 
s is an addition drawn from the Greek translation 
of the Old Testament. It is riot in the Hebrew, 
which has ' mosheh 5 ). 55 I have given this 
passage literally and am by no means prepared 
to share the responsibility for its details. I am 
a little surprised, however, that Breasted in 

1 The Dawn of Conscience, London, 1934, p. 350. 


citing related names should have passed over the 
analogous theophorous names in the list of 
Egyptian kings, such as Ah-mose, Thut-mose 
(Thothmes) and Ra-mose (Ramses). 

It might have been expected that one of the 
many authors who recognized Moses to be an 
Egyptian name would have drawn the con- 
clusion, or at least considered the possibility, 
that the bearer of an Egyptian name was himself 
an Egyptian. In modern times we have no 
misgiving in drawing such conclusions, although 
to-day a person bears two names, not one, and 
although a change of name or assimilation of it 
in new conditions cannot be ruled out. So we 
are not at all surprised to find that the poet 
Chamisso was of French extraction, Napoleon 
Buonaparte on the other hand of Italian, and 
that Benjamin Disraeli was an Italian Jew as 
his name would lead us to expect. And such an 
inference from the name to the race should be 
more reliable and indeed conclusive in respect 
of early and primitive times. Nevertheless to the 
best of my knowledge no historian has drawn this 
conclusion in the case of Moses, not even one of 
those who, like Breasted, are ready to suppose 
that Moses " was cognizant of all the wisdom of 
the Egyptians." l 

What hindered them from doing so can only 
be guessed at. Perhaps the awe of Biblical 

1 Loc. cit. 9 p. 334. 


tradition was insuperable. Perhaps it seemed 
monstrous to imagine that the man Moses could 
have been anything other than a Hebrew. In 
any event, what happened was that the recogni- 
tion of the name being Egyptian was not a factor 
in judging the origin of the man Moses, and that 
nothing further was deduced from it. If the 
question of the nationality of this great man is 
considered important, then any new material for 
answering it must be welcome. 

This is what my little essay attempts. It may 
claim a place in Imago 1 because the contribution 
it brings is an application of psycho-analysis. 
The considerations thus reached will impress only 
that minority of readers familiar with analytical 
reasoning and able to appreciate its conclusions. 
To them I hope it will appear of significance. 

In 1909 Otto Rank, then still under my influ- 
ence, published at my suggestion a book entitled : 
Der Mythus von der Geburt des Helden. 2 It deals with 
the fact " that almost all important civilized 
peoples have early on woven myths around and 
glorified in poetry their heroes, mythical kings 
and princes, founders of religions, of dynasties, 
empires and cities in short their national heroes. 
Especially the history of their birth and of their 
early years is furnished with phantastic traits; 

1 See Glossary. 

2 Funftes Heft der Schriften zur angewandten Seelenkunde, Fr. 
Deuticke, Wien. It is far from my mind to depreciate the value 
of Rank's original contributions to this work. 


the amazing similarity, nay, literal identity, of 
those tales, even if they refer to different, com- 
pletely independent peoples, sometimes geo- 
graphically far removed from one another, is well 
known and has struck many an investigator. 55 
Following Rank we reconstruct on the lines of 
Galton's technique an "^average myth 55 that 
makes prominent the essential features of all these 
tales, and we then get this formula. 

" The hero is the son of parents of the highest 
station, most often the son of a king. 

" His conception is impeded by difficuJties, 
such as abstinence or temporary sterility; or else 
his parents practise intercourse in secret because 
of prohibitions or other external obstacles. During 
his mothers pregnancy or earlier an oracle or a 
dream warns the father of the child 5 s birth as 
containing grave danger for his safety. 

" In consequence the father (or a person 
representing him) gives orders for the new-born 
babe to be killed or exposed to extreme danger; 
in most cases the babe is placed in a casket and 
delivered to the waves. 

" The child is then saved by animals or poor 
people, such as shepherds, and suckled by a 
female animal or a woman of humble birth. 

" When full grown he rediscovers his noble 
parents after many strange adventures, wreaks 
vengeance on his father and, recognized by his 
people, attains fame and greatness. 55 


The most remote of the historical personages 
to whom this myth attaches is Sargon of Agade, 
the founder of Babylon about 2800 B.C. From the 
point of view of what interests us here it would 
perhaps be worth while to reproduce the account 
ascribed to himself: 

" I am Sargon, the mighty king, King of 
Agade. My mother was a Vestal; my father I 
knew not; while my father's brother dwelt in 
the mountains. In my town Azupirani it lies 
on the banks of Euphrates my mother, the 
Vestal, conceived me. Secretly she bore me. She laid 
me in a basket of sedge, closed the opening with 
pitch and lowered me into the river. The stream did 
not drown me, but carried me to Akki, the 
drawer of water. Akki, the drawer of water, in 
the goodness of his heart lifted me out of the 
water. Akki, the drawer of water, as his own son he 
brought me up. Akki, the drawer of water, made 
me his gardener. When I was a gardener Istar 
fell in love with me. I became king and for forty- 
five years I ruled as king. 5 ' 

The best known names in the series beginning 
with Sargon of Agade are Moses, Cyrus and 
Romulus. But besides these Rank has enumerated 
many other heroes belonging to myth or poetry 
to whom the same youthful story attaches either 
in its entirety or in well recognizable parts, such as 
(Edipus, Kama, Paris, Telephos, Perseus, Heracles, 
Gilgamesh, Amphion, Zethos and others. 


The source and the tendency of such myths are 
familiar to us through Rank's work. I need only 
refer to his conclusions with a few short hints. 
A hero is a man who stands up manfully against 
his father and in the end victoriously overcomes 
him. The myth in question traces this struggle 
back to the very dawn of the hero's life, by having 
him born against his father's will and saved in 
spite of his father's evil intentions. The exposure 
in the basket is clearly a symbolical representa- 
tion of birth ; the basket is the womb, the stream 
the water at birth. In innumerable dreams the 
relation of the child to the parents is represented 
by drawing or saving from the water. When the 
imagination of a people attaches this myth to a 
famous personage it is to indicate that he is 
recognized as a hero, that his life has conformed 
to the typical plan. The inner source of the myth 
is the so-called " family romance " of the child, 
in which the son reacts to the change in his inner 
relationship to his parents, especially that to his 
father. The child's first years are governed by 
grandiose over-estimation of his father; kings 
and queens in dreams and fairy tales always 
represent, accordingly, the parents. Later on, 
under the influence of rivalry and real disappoint- 
ments, the release from the parents and a critical 
attitude towards the father sets in. The two 
families of the myth, the noble as well as the 
humble one, are therefore both images of his own 


family as they appear to the child in successive 
periods of his life. 

It is not too much to say that these observations 
fully explain the similarity as well as the far- 
spread occurrence of the myth of the birth of the 
hero. It is all the more interesting to find that 
the myth of Moses 5 birth and exposure stands 
apart; in one essential point it even contradicts 
the others. 

We start with the two families between which 
the myth has cast the child's fate. We know that 
analytic interpretation makes them into one 
family, that the distinction is only a temporal 
one. In the typical form of the myth the first 
family, into which the child is born, is a noble and 
mostly a royal one; the second family, in which 
the child grows up, is a humble and degraded 
one, corresponding with the circumstances to 
which the interpretation refers. Only in the 
story of (Edipus is this difference obscured. The 
babe exposed by one kingly family is brought up 
by another royal pair. It can hardly be an 
accident that in this one example there is in the 
myth itself a glimmer of the original identity of 
the two families. The social contrast of the two 
families meant, as we know, to stress the heroic 
nature of a great man gives a second function 
to our myth, which becomes especially significant 
with historical personages. It can also be used 
to provide for our hero a patent of nobility to 


elevate him to a higher social rank. Thus Cyrus 
is for the Medes an alien conqueror; by way of 
the exposure myth he becomes the grandson of 
their king. A similar trait occurs in the myth of 
Romulus : if such a man ever lived he must have 
been an unknown adventurer, an upstart; the 
myth makes him a descendant of, and heir to, 
the royal house of Alba Longa. 

It is very different in the case of Moses. Here 
the first family usually so distinguished is 
modest enough. ^He is the child of Jewish 
Leyites. But the second family the humble one 
in which as a rule heroes are brought up is 
replaced by the Royal house of Egypt; the 
princess brings him up as her own son. This 
divergence from the usual type has struck many 
research workers as strange. E. Meyer and others 
after him supposed the original form of the myth 
to have been different. Pharaoh had been warned 
by a prophetic dream 1 that his daughter's son 
would become a danger to him and his kingdom. 
This is why he has the child delivered to the 
waters of the Nile shortly after his birth. But the 
child is saved by Jewish people and brought up 
as their own. " National motives " in Rank's 
terminology 2 had transformed the myth into the 
form now known by us. 

However, further thought tells us that an 

1 Also mentioned in Flavius Josephus's narration. 

2 Loc. tit., p. 80, footnote. 


original Moses myth of this kind, one not diverg- 
ing from other birth myths, could not have 
existed. For the legend is either of Egyptian or 
of Jewish origin. The first supposition may be 
excluded. The Egyptians had no motive to 
glorify Moses; to them he was not a hero. So 
the legend should have originated among the 
Jewish people; that is to say, it was attached in 
the usual version to the person of their leader. 
But for that purpose it was entirely unfitted; 
what good is a legend to a people that makes 
their hero into an alien ? 

The Moses myth as we know it to-day lags 
sadly behind its secret motives. If Moses is not 
of royal lineage our legend cannot make him into 
a hero ; if he remains a Jew it has done nothing 
to raise his status. Only one small feature of the 
whole myth remains effective : the assurance that 
the babe survived in spite of strong outside forces 
to the contrary. This feature is repeated in the 
early history of Jesus, where King Herod assumes 
the role of Pharaoh. So we really have a right 
to assume that in a later and rather clumsy 
treatment of the legendary material the adapter 
saw fit to equip his hero Moses with certain 
features appertaining to the classical exposure 
myths characteristic of a hero, and yet unsuited 
to Moses by reason of the special circumstances. 

With this unsatisfactory and even uncertain 
result our investigation would have to end, 


without having contributed anything to answering 
the" question whether Moses was Egyptian, were 
there not another and perhaps more successful 
way of approaching the exposure myth itself. 

Let us return to the two families in the myth. 
As we know, on the level of analytic interpreta- 
tion they are identical. On a mythical level they 
are distinguished as the noble and the humble 
family. With an historical person to whom the 
myth has become attached there is, however, a 
third level, that of reality. One of the families is 
the real one, the one into which the great man 
was really born and in which he was brought up. 
The other is fictitious, invented by the myth in 
pursuance of its own motives. As a rule the real 
family corresponds with the humble one, the 
noble family with the fictitious one. In the case 
of Moses something seemed to be different. And 
here the new point of view may perhaps bring 
some illumination. It is that the first family, 
the one from which the babe is exposed to danger, 
is in all comparable cases the fictitious one; the 
second family, however, by which the hero is 
adopted and in which he grows up is his real one. 
If we have the courage to accept this statement 
as a general truth to which the Moses legend also 
is subject, then we suddenly see our way clear. 
Moses is an Egyptian probably of noble origin 
whom the myth undertakes to transform into a 
Jew. And that would be our conclusion! The 


exposure in the water was in its right place; to 
fit the new conclusion the intention had to be 
changed, not without violence. From a means of 
getting rid of the child it becomes a means of its 

The divergence of the Moses legend from all 
others of its kind might be traced back to a 
special feature in the story of Moses 5 life. Whereas 
in all other cases the hero rises above his humble 
beginnings as his life progresses, the heroic life 
of the man Moses began by descending from 
his eminence to the level of the children of 

This little investigation was undertaken in the 
hope of gaining from it a second, fresh argument 
for the suggestion that Moses was an Egyptian. 
We have seen that the first argument, that of his 
name, has not been considered decisive. 1 We 
have to be prepared for the new reasoning the 
analysis of the exposure myth not faring any 
better. The objection is likely to be that the 
circumstances of the origin and transformation of 
legends are too obscure to allow of such a con- 
clusion as the preceding one, and that all efforts 
to extract the kernel of historical truth must be 

1 Thus E. Meyer in Die Mosessagen und die Leviten, Berliner 
Sitzber. 1905: " The name Mose is probably the name Pinchas in 
the priest dynasty of Silo . . . without a doubt Egyptian. This 
does not prove however that these dynasties were of Egyptian 
origin, but it proves that they had relations with Egypt." (p. 651 .) 
One may well ask what kind of relations one is to imagine. 


doomed to failure in face of the incoherence and 
contradictions clustering around the heroic person 
of Moses and the unmistakable signs of tenden- 
tious distortion and stratification accumulated 
through many centuries. I myself do not share 
this negative attitude, but I am not in a position 
to confute it. 

If there was no more certainty than this to be 
attained why have I brought this enquiry to the 
notice of a wider public ? I regret that even my 
justification has to restrict itself to hints. If, 
however, one is attracted by the two arguments 
outlined above, and tries to take seriously the 
conclusion that Moses was a distinguished 
Egyptian, then very interesting and far-reaching 
perspectives open out. With the help of certain 
assumptions the motives guiding Moses in his 
unusual undertaking can be made intelligible; 
in close connection with this the possible motiva- 
tion of numerous characteristics and peculiarities 
of the legislation and religion he gave the Jewish 
people can be perceived. It stimulates ideas of 
some moment concerning the origin of mono- 
theistic religion in general. But such important 
considerations cannot be based on psychological 
probabilities alone. Even if one were to accept it 
as historical that Moses was Egyptian, we should 
want at least one other fixed point so as to protect 
the many emerging possibilities from the reproach 
of their being products of imagination and too 


far removed from reality. An objective proof of 
the period into which the life of Moses, and with 
it the exodus from Egypt, fall would perhaps have 
sufficed. But this has not been forthcoming, and 
therefore it will be better to suppress any infer- 
ences that might follow our view that Moses was 
an Egyptian. 


Part II 

IN Part I of this book I have tried to 
strengthen by a new argument the suggestion that 
the man Moses, the liberator and law-giver of 
the Jewish people, was not a Jew, but an Egypt- 
ian. That his name derived from the Egyptian 
vocabulary had long been observed, though not 
duly appreciated. I added to this consideration 
the further one that the interpretation of the 
exposure myth attaching to Moses necessitated 
the conclusion that he was an Egyptian whom a 
people needed to make into a Jew.VAt the end of 
my essay I said that important and far-reaching 
conclusions could be drawn from the suggestion 
that Moses was an Egyptian; but I was not 
prepared to uphold them publicly, since they were 
based only on psychological probabilities and 
lacked objective proof. The more significant the 
possibilities thus discerned the more cautious is 
one about exposing them to the critical attack of 
the outside world without any secure foundation 
like an iron monument with feet of clay. No 



probability, however seductive, can protect us 
from error; even if all parts of a problem seem 
to fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, 
one has to remember that the probable need not 
necessarily be the truth and the truth not always 
probable. And, lastly, it is not attractive to be 
classed with the scholastics and talmudists who 
are satisfied to exercise their ingenuity uncon- 
cerned how far removed their conclusions may 
be from the truth. 

Notwithstanding these misgivings, which weigh 
as heavily to-day as they did then, out of the 
conflict of my motives the decision has emerged 
to follow up my first essay by this contribution. 
But once again it is only a part of the whole, and 
not the most important part. 

If, then, Moses was an Egyptian, the first gain 
from this suggestion is a new riddle, one difficult 
to answer. When a people of a tribe 1 prepares 
for a great undertaking it is to be expected that 
one of them should make himself their leader or 
be chosen for this role. But what could have 
induced a distinguished Egyptian perhaps a 
prince, priest or high official to place himself at 

1 We have no inkling what numbers were concerned in the 


the head of a throng of culturally inferior immi- 
grants, and to leave the country with them, is 
not easy to conjecture. The well-known contempt 
of the Egyptians for foreigners makes such a 
proceeding especially unlikely. Indeed, I am 
inclined to think this is why even those historians 
who recognized the name as Egyptian, and 
ascribed all the wisdom of Egypt to him, were not 
willing to entertain the obvious possibility that 
Moses was an Egyptian. 

This first difficulty is followed by a second. We 
must not forget that Moses was not only the 
political leader of the Jews settled in Egypt, he 
was also their law -giver and educator and the 
man who forced them to adopt a new religion, 
which is still to-day called Mosaic after him. 
But can a single person create a new religion so 
easily ? And when someone wishes to influence 
the religion of another would not the most 
natural thing be to convert him to his own ? 
The Jewish people in Egypt were certainly 
not without some kind of religion, and if 
Moses, who gave them a new religion, was an 
Egyptian, then the surmise cannot be rejected 
that this other new religion was the Egyptian 

This possibility encounters an obstacle: the 
sharp contrast between the Jewish religion 
attributed to Moses and the Egyptian one. 
The former is a grandiosely rigid monotheism. 


There is only one God, unique, omnipotent, 
unapproachable. The sight of his countenance 
cannot be borne; one must not make an image 
of him, not even breathe his name. In the 
Egyptian religion, on the other hand, there is 
a bewildering mass of deities of differing impor- 
tance and provenance. Some of them are per- 
sonifications of great natural powers like heaven 
and earth, sun and moon. Then we find an 
abstraction such as Maat (Justice, Truth) or a 
grotesque creature like the dwarfish Bes. Most 
of them, however, are local gods from the time 
when the land was divided into numerous 
provinces. They have the shapes of animals as 
if they had not yet overcome their origin from 
the old totem animals. They are not clearly 
differentiated, barely distinguished by special 
functions attributed to some of them. The hymns 
in praise of these gods tell the same thing about 
each of them, identify them with one another 
without any misgivings in a way that would 
confuse us hopelessly. Names of deities are 
combined with one another, so that one becomes 
degraded almost to an epithet of the other. Thus 
in the best period of the " New Empire " the 
main god of the city of Thebes is called Amon-Re 
in which combination the first part signifies the 
ram-headed city-god, whereas Re is the name of 
the hawk -headed Sun -God of On. Magic and 
ceremonial, amulets and formulas, dominated 


the service of these gods, as they did the daily 
life of the Egyptians. 

Some of these differences may easily derive 
from the contrast in principle between a strict 
monotheism and an unlimited polytheism. Others 
are obviously consequences of a difference in 
intellectual level; one religion is very near to the 
primitive, the other has soared to the heights of 
sublime abstraction. Perhaps it is these two 
characteristics that occasionally give one the 
impression that the contrast between the Mosaic 
and the Egyptian religion is one intended and 
purposely accentuated: for example, when the 
one religion severely condemns any kind of 
magic or sorcery which flourishes so abundantly 
in the other ; or when the insatiable zest of the 
Egyptian for making images of his gods in clay, 
stone and metal, to which our museums owe so 
much, is contrasted with the way in which the 
making of the image of any living or visionary 
being is bluntly forbidden. 

There is yet another difference between the 
two religions, which the explanations we have 
attempted do not touch. No other people of 
antiquity has done so much to deny death, has 
made such careful provision for an after-life; in 
accordance with this the death -god Osiris, the 
ruler of that other world, was the mosj; popular 
and indisputable of all Egyptian gods.^The early 
Jewish religion, on the other hand, had entirely 


relinquished immortality; the possibility of an 
existence after death was never mentioned in any 
place. And this is all the more remarkable since 
later experience has shown that the belief in a 
life beyond can very well be reconciled with a 
monotheistic religion. 

We had hoped the suggestion that Moses was 
an Egyptian would prove enlightening and 
stimulating in many different respects. But our 
first deduction from this suggestion that the new 
religion he gave the Jews was his own, the 
Egyptian one has foundered on the difference, 
nay the striking contrast, between the two 


A strange fact in the history of the Egyptian 
religion, which was recognized and appraised 
relatively late, opens up another point of view. 
It is still possible that the religion Moses gave to 
his Jewish people was yet his own, an Egyptian 
religion though not the Egyptian one. 

In the glorious Eighteenth Dynasty, when 
Egypt became for the first time a world power, 
a young Pharaoh ascended the throne about 
1 375 B.C., who first called himself Amenhotep (IV) 
like his father, but later on changed his name 
and not only his name. This king undertook 


to force upon his subjects a new religion, one 
contrary to their ancient traditions and to all 
their familiar habitsXIt was a strict monotheisn*, 
the first attempt of its kind in the history of the 
world as far as we know and religious intoler- 
ance, which was foreign to antiquity before this 
and for long after, was inevitably born with the 
belief in one God. But Amenhotep's reign lasted 
only for seventeen years; very soon after his 
death in 1358 the new religion was swept away 
and the memory of the heretic king proscribed. 
From the ruins of his new capital which he had 
built and dedicated to his God, and from the 
inscriptions in the rock tombs belonging to it, we 
derive the little knowledge we possess of him. 
Everything we can learn about this remarkable, 
indeed unique, person is worthy of the greatest 
interest. 1 

Everything new must have its roots in what was 
before. The origin of Egyptian monotheism can 
be traced back a fair distance with some cer- 
tainty. 1 In the School of the Priests in the Sun 
Temple at On (Heliopolis) tendencies had for 
some time been at work developing the idea of an 
universal God and stressing His ethical aspects. 
Maat, the Goddess of truth, order and justice, 
was a daughter of the Sun God Re. Already 

1 Breasted called him " The first individual in human history." 

2 The account I give here follows closely J. H. Breasted's History 
of Egypt, 1906, and The Dawn of Conscience, 1936, and the corre- 
sponding sections in the Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. II. 


under Amenhotep III, the father and predecessor 
of the reformer, the worship of the Sun God was 
in the ascendant, probably in opposition to the 
worship of Amon of Thebes, who had become 
over prominent. An ancient name of the Sun- 
God Aton or Atum was rediscovered, and in this 
Aton religion the young king found a movement 
he had no need to create, but one which he could 

Political conditions in Egypt had about that 
time begun to exert a lasting influence on 
Egyptian religion. Through the victorious sword 
of the great conqueror Thothmes III Egypt had 
become a world power. Nubia in the south, 
Palestine, Syria and a part of Mesopotamia in 
the north had been added to the Empire. This 
imperialism was reflected in religion as Universal- 
ity and Monotheism. Since Pharaoh's solicitude 
now extended beyond Egypt to Nubia and Syria, 
Deity itself had to give up its national limitation 
and the new God of the Egyptians had to become 
like Pharaoh the unique and unlimited sovereign 
of the world known to the Egyptians. Besides, 
it was natural that as the frontiers extended 
Egypt should become accessible to foreign 
influences ; some of the king's wives were Asiatic 
princesses, 1 and possibly even direct encourage- 
ment of monotheism had penetrated from 

1 Perhaps even Amenhotep's beloved spouse Nofertete. 


Amenhotep never denied his accession to the 
Sun Cult of On. In the two hymns to Aton, which 
have been preserved to us through the inscriptions 
in the rock tombs and were probably composed 
by him, he praises the sun as the creator and 
preserver of all living beings in and outside 
Egypt with a fervour such as recurs many 
centuries after only in the psalms in honour of 
the Jewish god Jahve. But he did not stop at this 
astonishing anticipation of scientific knowledge 
concerning the effect of sunlight. There is no 
doubt that he went further: that he worshipped 
the sun not as a material object, but as a symbol 
of a Divine Being whose energy was manifested 
in his rays. 1 

But we do scant justice to the king if we see in 
him only the adherent and protector of an Aton 
religion which had already existed before him. 
His activity was much more energetic. He added 
the something new that turned into monotheism 
the doctrine of an universal god : the quality of 
exclusiveness. In one of his hymns it is stated in 

1 Breasted, History of Egypt, p. 360: " But however evident the 
Heliopolitan origin of the new state religion might be, it was not 
merely sun-worship; the word Aton was employed in the place 
of the old word for ' god ' (nuter), and the god is clearly dis- 
tinguished from the material sun." " It is evident that what the 
king was deifying was the force by which the Sun made itself 
felt on earth " (Dawn of Conscience, p. 279). Erman's opinion of a 
formula in honour of the god is similar : A. Erman (Die JEgyptische 
Religion, 1905). " There are . . . words which are meant to 
express in an abstract form the fact that not the star itself was 
worshipped, but the Being that manifested itself in it." 


so many words: " Oh, Thou only God! There 
is no other God than Thou. 55 1 And we must not 
forget that to appraise the new doctrine it is not 
enough to know its positive content only; nearly 
as important is its negative side, the knowledge of 
what it repudiates. It would be a mistake, too, 
to suppose that the new religion sprang to life 
ready and fully equipped like Athene out of 
Zeus 5 forehead. Everything rather goes to show 
that during Amenhotep's reign it was strength- 
ened so as to attain greater clarity, consistency, 
harshness and intolerance. Probably this develop- 
ment took place under the influence of the violent 
opposition among the priests of Amon that raised 
its head against the reforms of the king. In the 
sixth year of Amenhotep's reign this enmity had 
grown to such an extent that the king changed 
his name, of which the now proscribed name of 
the god Amon was a part. Instead of Amenhotep 
he called himself Ikhnaton. 2 But not only from 
his name did he eliminate that of the hated God, 
but also from all inscriptions and even where he 
found it in his father's name Amenhotep III. 
Soon after his change of name Ikhnaton left 
Thebes, which was under Amon's rule, and built 
a new capital lower down the river which he 

1 Idem, History of Egypt, p. 374. 

2 I follow Breasted's (American) spelling in this name (the 
accepted English spelling is Akhenaten). The king's new name 
means approximately the same as his former one : God is satisfied. 
Compare our Godfrey and the German Gotthold. 


called Akhetaton (Horizon of Aton). Its ruins 
are now called Tell-el-Amarna. 1 

The persecution by the king was directed fore- 
most against Amon, but not against him alone. 
Everywhere in the Empire the temples were 
closed, the services forbidden, and the ecclesias- 
tical property seized. Indeed, the king's zeal 
went so far as to cause an inquiry to be made into 
the inscriptions of old monuments in order to 
efface the word " God " whenever it was used 
in the plural. 2 It is not to be wondered at that 
these orders produced a reaction of fanatical 
vengeance among the suppressed priests and the 
discontented people, a reaction which was able 
to find a free outlet after the king's death. The 
Aton religion had not appealed to the people; 
it had probably been limited to a small circle 
round Ikhnaton's person. His end is wrapped in 
mystery. We learn of a few short-lived, shadowy 
successors of his own family. Already his son-in- 
law Tutankhaton was forced to return to Thebes 
and to substitute Amon in his name for the god 
Aton. Then there followed a period of anarchy, 
until the general Haremhab succeeded in 1350 
in restoring order. The glorious Eighteenth 
Dynasty was extinguished; at the same time their 

1 This is where in 1887 the correspondence of the Egyptian 
kings with their friends and vassals in Asia was found, a cor- 
respondence which proved so important for our knowledge of 

2 Idem, History of Egypt, p. 363. 


conquests in Nubia and Asia were lost. In this 
sad interregnum Egypt's old religions had 
been reinstated. The Aton religion was at 
an end, Ikhnaton's capital lay destroyed and 
plundered, and his memory was scorned as that 
of a felon. 

It will serve a certain purpose if we now note 
several negative characteristics of the Aton 
religion. In the first place, all myth, magic and 
sorcery are excluded from it. 1 

Then there is the way in which the Sun God is 
represented: no longer as in earlier times by a 
small pyramid and a falcon, but and this is 
almost rational by a round disc from which 
emanate rays terminating in human hands. In 
spite of all the love for art in the Amarna period, 
not one personal representation of the Sun God 
Aton has been found, and, we may say with 
confidence, ever will be found. 2 

Finally, there is a complete silence about 
the death god Osiris and the realm of the 
dead. Neither hymns nor inscriptions on graves 

1 Weigall (The Life and Times of Akhnaton, 1923, p. 121) says that 
Ikhnaton would not recognize a hell against the terrors of which 
one had to guard by innumerable magic spells. " Akhnaton flung 
all these formulas into the fire. Djins, bogies, spirits, monsters, 
demigods and Osiris himself with all his court, were swept into 
the blaze and reduced to ashes." 

8 A. Weigall, I.e., p. 103, " Akhnaton did not permit any 
graven image to be made of the Aton. The true God, said the 
king, had no form; and he held to this opinion throughout his 


know anything of what was perhaps nearest 
to the Egyptian's heart. The contrast with the 
popular religion cannot be expressed more 
vividly. 1 


We venture now to draw the following con- 
clusion: if Moses was an Egyptian and if he 
transmitted to the Jews his own religion then it 
was that of Ikhnaton, the Aton religion. 

We compared earlier the Jewish religion with 
the religion of the Egyptian people and noted 
how different they were from each other. Now 
we shall compare the Jewish with the Aton 
religion and should expect to find that they were 
originally identical. We know that this is no easy 
task. Of the Aton religion we do not perhaps 
know enough, thanks to the revengeful spirit of 
the Amon priests. The Mosaic religion we know 
only in its final form as it was fixed by Jewish 
priests in the time after the Exile about 800 years 
later. If, in spite of this unpromising material, 
we should find some indications fitting in with 
our supposition then we may indeed value them 

1 Erman, /.., p. 90: " Of Osiris and his realm no more was to 
be heard." Breasted, Dawn of Conscience, p. 291: "Osiris is 
completely ignored. He is never mentioned in any record of 
Ikhnaton or in any of the tombs at Amarna." 


There would be a short way of proving our 
thesis that the Mosaic religion is nothing else 
but that of Aton, namely, by a confession of 
faith, a proclamation. But I am afraid I should 
be told that such a road is impracticable. The 
Jewish creed, as is well known, says: " Schema 
Jisroel Adonai Elohenu Adonai Echod." If the 
similarity of the name of the Egyptian Aton (or 
Atum) to the Hebrew word Adonai and the 
Syrian divine name Adonis is not a mere accident, 
but is the result of a primaeval unity in language 
and meaning, then one could translate the 
Jewish formula: Hear, oh Israel, our god Aton 
(Adonai) is the only God. I am, alas, entirely 
unqualified to answer this question and have 
been able to find very little about it in the 
literature concerned, 1 but probably we had 
better not make things so simple. Moreover, we 
shall have to come back to the problems of the 
divine name. 

The points of similarity as well as those of 
difference in the two religions are easily discerned, 
but do not enlighten us much. Both are forms of 
a strict monotheism, and we shall be inclined to 
reduce to this basic character what is similar in 
both of them. 'Jewish monotheism is in some 

1 Only a few passages in Weigall, I.e., pp. 12, 19: " The god 
Atum, who described Re as the setting sun, was perhaps of the 
same origin as Aton, generally venerated in Northern Syria. A 
foreign Queen, as well as her suite, might therefore have been 
attracted to Heliopolis rather than to Thebes." 


points even more uncompromising than the 
Egyptian, for example, when it forbids all visual 
representation of its God. The most essential 
difference apart from the name of their God 
is that the Jewish religion entirely relinquishes 
the worship of the sun, to which the Egyptian one 
still adhered. When comparing the Jewish with 
the Egyptian folk religion we received the 
impression that, besides the contrast in principle, 
there was in the difference between the two 
religions an element of purposive contradiction. 
This impression appears justified when in our 
comparison we replace the Jewish religion by that 
of Aton, which Ikhnaton as we know developed 
in deliberate antagonism to the popular religion. 
We were astonished and rightly so that the 
Jewish religion did not speak of anything beyond 
the grave, for such a doctrine is reconcilable with 
the strictest monotheism. This astonishment 
disappears if we go back from the Jewish religion 
to the Aton religion and surmise that this feature 
was taken over from the latter, since for Ikhnaton 
it was a necessity in fighting the popular religion 
where the death god Osiris played perhaps a 
greater part than any god of the upper regions. 
The agreement of the Jewish religion with that of 
Aton in this important point is the first strong 
argument in favour of our thesis. We shall see 
that it is not the only one. 
Moses gave the Jews not only a new religion; 


it is equally certain that he introduced the custom 
of circumcision. This has a decisive importance 
for our problem and it has hardly ever been 
weighed. The Biblical account, it is true, often 
contradicts it. On the one hand, it dates the 
custom back to the time of the patriarchs as a 
sign of the covenant concluded between God and 
Abraham. On the other hand, the text mentions 
in a specially obscure passage that God was 
wroth with Moses because he had neglected this 
holy usage and proposed to slay him as a punish- 
ment; Moses' wife, aMidianite, saved her husband 
from the wrath of God by speedily performing 
the operation. These are distortions, however, 
which should not lead us astray; we shall explore 
their motives presently. The fact remains that 
the question concerning the origin of circumcision 
has only one answer: it comes from Egypt. 
Herodotus, " the Father of History, 55 tells us that 
the custom of circumcision had long been 
practised in Egypt, and his statement has been 
confirmed by the examination of mummies and 
even by drawings on the walls of graves. No 
other people of the Eastern Mediterranean has 
as far as we know followed this custom; we can 
assume with certainty that the Semites, Baby- 
lonians and Sumerians were not circumcised. 
Biblical history itself says as much of the inhabi- 
tants of Canaan; it is presupposed in the story 
of the adventure between Jacob 5 s daughter and 


the Prince of Shechem. 1 The possibility that the 
Jews in Egypt adopted the usage of circumcision 
in any other way than in connection with the 
religion Moses gave them may be rejected as 
quite untenable. Now let us bear in mind that 
circumcision was practised in Egypt by the 
people as a general custom, and let us adopt for 
the moment the usual assumption that Moses was 
a Jew who wanted to free his compatriots from 
the service of an Egyptian overlord, and lead them 
out of the country to develop an independent 
and self-confident existence a feat he actually 
achieved. What sense could there be in his 
forcing upon them at the same time a burden- 
some custom which, so to speak, made them into 
Egyptians and was bound to keep awake their 
memory of Egypt, whereas his intention could 
only have had the opposite aim, namely, that his 
people should become strangers to the country 
of bondage and overcome the longing for the 
" fleshpots of Egypt " ? No, the fact we started 

1 When I use Biblical tradition here in such an autocratic and 
arbitrary way, draw on it for confirmation whenever it is con- 
venient and dismiss its evidence without scruple when it contra- 
dicts my conclusions, I know full well that I am exposing myself 
to severe criticism concerning my method and that I weaken the 
force of my proofs. But this is the only way in which to treat 
material whose trustworthiness as we know for certain was 
seriously damaged by the influence of distorting tendencies. 
Some justification will be forthcoming later, it is hoped, when we 
have unearthed those secret motives. Certainty is not to be gained 
in any case, and, moreover, we may say that all other authors 
have acted likewise. 


from and the suggestion we added to it are so 
incompatible with each other that we venture to 
draw the following conclusion: If Moses gave 
the Jews not only a new religion, but also the 
law of circumcision, he was no Jew but an 
Egyptian, and then the Mosaic religion was 
probably an Egyptian one, namely because of 
its contrast to the popular religion that of Aton 
with which the Jewish one shows agreement in 
some remarkable points. 

As I remarked earlier, my hypothesis that 
Moses was not a Jew but an Egyptian creates a 
new enigma. What he did easily understand- 
able if he were a Jew becomes unintelligible in 
an Egyptian. But if we place Moses in Ikhnaton's 
period and associate him with that Pharaoh, 
then the enigma is resolved and a possible motive 
presents itself, answering all our questions. Let 
us assume that Moses was a noble and distin- 
guished man: perhaps indeed a member of the 
royal house, as the myth has it. He must have 
been conscious of his great abilities, ambitious 
and energetic; perhaps he saw himself in a dim 
future as the leader of his people, the governor 
of the Empire. In close contact with Pharaoh he 
was a convinced adherent of the new religion, 
whose basic principles he fully understood and 
had made his own. With the king's death and 
the subsequent reaction he saw all his hopes and 
prospects destroyed. If he was not to recant the 


convictions so dear to him then Egypt had no 
more to give him; he had lost his native country. 
In this hour of need he found an unusual solution. 
The dreamer Ikhnaton had estranged himself 
from his people, had let his world empire crumble. 
Moses 5 active nature conceived the plan of found- 
ing a new empire, of finding a new people, to 
whom he could give the religion that Egypt 
disdained. It was, as we perceive, an heroic 
attempt to struggle against his fate, to find com- 
pensation in two directions for the losses he had 
suffered through Ikhnaton's catastrophe. Perhaps 
he was at the time governor of that border 
province (Gosen) in which perhaps already in 
" the Hyksos period " certain Semitic tribes had 
settled. These he chose to be his new people. 
An historic decision. 1 

He established relations with them, placed 
himself at their head and directed the Exodus 
" by strength of hand." In full contradistinction 
to the Biblical tradition we may suppose this 
Exodus to have passed off peacefully and without 
pursuit. The authority of Moses made it possible, 

1 If Moses were a high official we can understand his being 
fitted for the r61e of leader he assumed with the Jews. If he were 
a priest the thought of giving his people a new religion must have 
been near to his heart. In both cases he would have continued his 
former profession. A prince of royal lineage might easily have 
been both : governor and priest. In the report of Flavius Josephus 
(Antiqu. jud.) , who accepts the exposure myth, but seems to know 
other traditions than the Biblical one, Moses appears as an 
Egyptian field -marshal in a victorious campaign in Ethiopia. 


and there was then no central power that could 
have prevented it. 

According to our construction the Exodus from 
Egypt would have taken place between 1358 and 
1350, that is to say, after the death of Ikhnaton 
and before the restitution of the authority of the 
state by Haremhab. 1 The goal of the wandering 
could only be Canaan. After the supremacy of 
Egypt had collapsed, hordes of war -like Arameans 
had flooded the country, conquering and pillag- 
ing, and thus had shown where a capable people 
could seize new land. We know these warriors 
from the letters which were found in 1887 in the 
archives of the ruined city of Amarna. There 
they are called Habiru, and the name was passed 
on no one knows how to the Jewish invaders, 
Hebrews, who came later and could not have 
been referred to in the letters of Amarna. The 
tribes who were the most nearly related to the 
Jews now leaving Egypt also lived south of 
Palestine in Canaan. 

The motivation that we have surmised for the 
Exodus as a whole covers also the institution of 
circumcision. We know in what manner human 
beings both peoples and individuals react to 
this ancient custom, scarcely any longer under- 
stood. Those who do not practise it regard it as 

1 This would be about a century earlier than most historians 
assume, who place it in the Nineteenth Dynasty under Merneptah : 
or perhaps a little less, for official records seem to include the 
interregnum in Haremhab's reign. 


very odd and find it rather abhorrent; but those 
who have adopted circumcision are proud of the 
custom. They feel superior, ennobled, and look 
down with contempt at the others, who appear 
to them unclean. Even to-day the Turk hurls 
abuse at the Christian by calling him "an un- 
circumcised dog. 55 It is credible that Moses, who 
as an Egyptian was himself circumcised, shared 
this attitude. The Jews with whom he left his 
native country were to be a better substitute for 
the Egyptians he left behind. In no circum- 
stances must they be inferior to them. He wished 
to make of them a " Holy People 55 so it is 
explicitly stated in the Biblical text and as a 
sign of their dedication he introduced the custom 
that made them at least the equals of the Egypt- 
ians. It would, further, be welcome to him if 
such a custom isolated them and prevented them 
from mingling with the other foreign peoples they 
would meet during their wanderings, just as the 
Egyptians had kept apart from all foreigners. 1 

1 Herodotus, who visited Egypt about 450 B.C., gives in the 
account of his travels a characteristic of the Egyptians which 
shows an astounding similarity with well-known features of the 
later Jewish people. " They are in all respects much more pious 
than other peoples, they are also distinguished from them by many 
of their customs, such as circumcision, which for reasons of 
cleanliness they introduced before others; further, by their 
horror of swine, doubtless connected with the fact that Set wounded 
Horus when in the guise of a black hog; and, lastly, most of all by 
their reverence for cows, which they would never eat or sacrifice 
because they would thereby offend the cow -horned Isis. There- 
fore no Egyptian man or woman would ever kiss a Greek or use 



Jewish tradition, however, behaved later on as 
if it were oppressed by the sequence of ideas we 
have just developed. To admit that circumcision 
was an Egyptian custom introduced by Moses 
would be almost to recognize that the religion 
handed down to them from Moses was also 
Egyptian. But the Jews had good reasons to 
deny this fact; therefore the truth about circum- 
cision had also to be contradicted. 


At this point I expect to hear the reproach that 
I have built up my construction which places 
Moses the Egyptian in Ikhnaton's era, derives 
from the political state the country was in at that 
time his decision to protect the Jewish people, 
and recognizes as the Aton religion the religion 
he gave to his people or with which he burdened 
them, which had just been abolished in Egypt 
itself that I have built up this edifice of 

his knife, his spit or his cooking vessel, or eat of the meat of an 
(otherwise) clean ox that had been cut with a Greek knife. . . . 
In haughty narrowness they looked down on the other peoples 
who were unclean and not so near to the gods as they were." 
(After Erman, The Egyptian Religion, p. 181, etc.) 

Naturally we do not forget here the parallels from the life of 
India. Whatever gave, by the way, the Jewish poet Heine in the 
nineteenth century the idea of complaining about his religion as 
" the plague trailing along from the valley of the Nile, the sickly 
beliefs of the Ancient Egyptians " ? 


conjectures with too great a certainty for which no 
adequate grounds are to be found in the material 
itself. I think this reproach would be unjustified. 
I have already stressed the element of doubt in 
the introduction, put a query in front of the 
brackets, so to speak, and can therefore save 
myself the trouble of repeating it at each point 
inside the brackets. 

Some of my own critical observations may 
continue the discussion. The kernel of our thesis, 
the dependence of Jewish monotheism on the 
monotheistic episode in Egyptian history, has 
been guessed and hinted at by several workers. 
I need not cite them here, since none of them has 
been able to say by what means this influence 
was exerted. Even if, as I suggest, it is bound up 
with the individuality of Moses, we shall have 
to weigh other possibilities than the one here 
preferred. It is not to be supposed that the over- 
throw of the official Aton religion completely 
put an end to the monotheistic trend in Egypt. 
The School of Priests at On, from which it 
emanated, survived the catastrophe and might 
have drawn whole generations after Ikhnaton 
into the orbit of their religious thought. That 
Moses performed the deed is quite thinkable, 
therefore, even if he did not live in Ikhnaton's 
time and had not come under his personal 
influence, even if he were simply an adherent or 
merely a member of the school of On. This 


conjecture would postpone the date of the 
Exodus and bring it nearer to the time usually 
assumed, the thirteenth century; otherwise it 
has nothing to recommend it. We should have 
to relinquish the insight we had gained into 
Moses 5 motives and to dispense with the idea of 
the Exodus being facilitated by the anarchy 
prevailing in Egypt. The kings of the Nineteenth 
Dynasty following Ikhnaton ruled the country 
with a strong hand. All conditions, internal and 
external, favouring the Exodus coincide only in 
the period immediately after the death of the 
heretic king. 

The Jews possess a rich extra -biblical literature 
where the myths and superstitions are to be found 
which in the course of centuries were woven 
around the gigantic figure of their first leader and 
the founder of their religion and which have both 
hallowed and obscured that figure. Some frag- 
ments of sound tradition which had found no 
place in the Pentateuch may lie scattered in that 
material. One of these legends describes in an 
attractive fashion how the ambition of the man 
Moses had already displayed itself in his child- 
hood. When Pharaoh took him into his arms and 
playfully tossed him high, the little three-year- 
old snatched the crown from Pharaoh's head and 
placed it on his own. The king was startled at 
this omen and took care to consult his sages. 1 

1 The same anecdote, slightly altered, is to be found in Josephus. 


Then, again, we are told of victorious battles he 
fought as an Egyptian captain in Ethiopia and, 
in the same connection, that he fled the country 
because he had reason to fear the envy of a 
faction at court or even the envy of Pharaoh 
himself. The Biblical story itself lends Moses 
certain features in which one is inclined to believe. 
It describes him as choleric, hot-tempered as 
when in his indignation he kills the brutal over- 
seer who ill-treated a Jewish workman, or when 
in his resentment at the defection of his people he 
smashes the tables he has been given on Mount 
Sinai. Indeed, God himself punished him at long 
last for a deed of impatience we are not told 
what it was. Since such a trait does not lend 
itself to glorification it may very well be historical 
truth. Nor can we reject even the possibility that 
many character traits the Jews incorporated into 
their early conception of God when they made 
him jealous, stern and implacable, were taken 
au fond from their memory of Moses, for in truth 
it was not an invisible god, but the man Moses, 
who had led them out of Egypt. 

Another trait imputed to him deserves our 
special interest. Moses was said to have been 
" slow of speech " that is to say, he must have 
had a speech impediment or inhibition so that 
he had to call on Aaron (who is called his brother) 
for assistance in his supposed discussions with 
Pharaoh. This again may be historical truth and 


would serve as a welcome addition to the 
endeavour to make the picture of this great man 
live. It may, however, have another and more 
important significance. The report may, in a 
slightly distorted way, recall the fact that Moses 
spoke another language and was not able to 
communicate with his Semitic Neo-Egyptians 
without the help of an interpreter at least not 
at the beginning of their intercourse. Thus a 
fresh confirmation of the thesis: Moses was an 

It looks now as if the train of thought has come 
to an end, at least for the time being. From the 
surmise that Moses was an Egyptian, be it 
proven or not, nothing more can be deduced for 
the moment. No historian can regard the Biblical 
account of Moses and the Exodus as other than a 
pious myth, which transformed a remote tradi- 
tion in the interest of its own tendencies. How 
the tradition ran originally we do not know. 
What the distorting tendencies were we should 
like to guess, but we are kept in the dark by our 
ignorance of the historical events. That our 
reconstruction leaves no room for so many 
spectacular features of the Biblical text the ten 
plagues, the passage through the Red Sea, the 
solemn law -giving on Mount Sinai will not 
lead us astray. But we cannot remain indifferent 
on finding ourselves in opposition to the sober 
historical researches of our time. 


These modern historians, well represented by 
E. Meyer/ follow the Biblical text in one decisive 
point. They concur that the Jewish tribes, who 
later on become the people of Israel, at a certain 
time accepted a new religion. But this event did 
not take place in Egypt nor at the foot of a 
mount in the Sinai peninsula, but in a place 
called Meribat-Qades, an oasis distinguished by 
its abundance of springs and wells in the country 
south of Palestine between the eastern end of the 
Sinai peninsula and the western end of Arabia. 
There they took over the worship of a god Jahve, 
probably from the Arabic tribe of Midianites who 
lived near-by. Presumably other neighbouring 
tribes were also followers of that god. 

Jahve was certainly a volcano god. As we know, 
however, Egypt has no volcanoes and the 
mountains of the Sinai peninsula have never 
been volcanic; on the other hand, volcanoes 
which may have been active up to a late period 
are found along the western border of Arabia. 
One of these mountains must have been the 
Sinai -Horeb which was believed to be Jahve J s 
abode. 2 In spite of all the transformations the 
Biblical text has suffered, we are able to re- 
construct according to E. Meyer the orig- 
inal character of the god: he is an uncanny, 

1 E. Meyer: Die Israeliten und ihre Nachbarstdmme y 1906. 

2 The Biblical text retains certain passages telling us that Jahve 
descended from Sinai to Meribat-Qades. 


bloodthirsty demon who walks by night and shuns 
the light of day. 1 

The mediator between the people and the god 
at this birth of a new religion was called Moses. 
He was the son-in-law of the Midianite priest 
Jethro and was tending his flocks when he 
received the divine summons. Jethro visited him 
in Qades to give him instructions. 

E. Meyer says, it is true, that he never doubted 
there was a kernel of historical truth in the story 
of the bondage in Egypt and the catastrophe of 
the Egyptians, 2 but evidently he does not know 
where that recognized fact belongs and what to 
do with it. Only the custom of circumcision is he 
willing to derive from the Egyptians. He enriches 
our earlier discussion by two important sugges- 
tions. First, that Joshua asked the people to 
accept circumcision " to roll away the reproach 
of Egypt " ; and, secondly, by the quotation from 
Herodotus that the Phoenicians (which probably 
means the Jews) and the Syrians in Palestine 
themselves admitted having learned the custom 
of circumcision from the Egyptians. 8 But an 
Egyptian Moses does not appeal to him. " The 
Moses we know was the ancestor of the priests of 
Qades ; he stood therefore in relation to the cult, 
was a figure of the genealogical myth and not an 
historical person. So not one of those who has 
treated him as an historical person except those 

1 L.c., pp. 38, 58. 2 L.c., p. 49. 8 L.c., p. 449. 


who accept tradition wholesale as historical truth 
has succeeded in filling this empty shape with 
any content, in describing him as a concrete 
personality; they have had nothing to tell us 
about what he achieved or about his mission in 
history. 1 

On the other hand, Meyer never wearies of 
telling us about Moses' relation to Qades and 
Midian. " The figure of Moses so closely bound 
up with Midian and the holy places in the 
desert. 55 * " This figure of Moses is inextricably 
associated with Qades (Massa and Meriba) ; the 
relationship with a Midianite priest by marriage 
completes the picture. The connection with the 
Exodus, on the other hand, and the story of his 
youth in its entirety, are absolutely secondary 
and are merely the consequence of Moses having 
to fit into a connected, continuous story. 558 He 
also observes that all the characteristics contained 
in the story of Moses 5 youth were later omitted. 
" Moses in Midian is no longer an Egyptian and 
Pharaoh 5 s grandson, but a shepherd to whom 
Jahve reveals himself. In the story of the ten 
plagues his former relationships are no longer 
mentioned, although they could have been used 
very effectively, and the order to kill the Israelite 
first-born is entirely forgotten. In the Exodus 
and the perishing of the Egyptians Moses has no 
part at all; he is not even mentioned. The 

1 L.c., p. 451. 2 L.c. p. 49. 3 L.c. y p. 72. 


characteristics of a hero, which the childhood 
story presupposes, are entirely absent in the later 
Moses ; he is only the man of God, a performer of 
miracles, provided with supernatural powers by 
Jahve." * 

We cannot escape the impression that this 
Moses of Qades and Midian, to whom tradition 
could even ascribe the erection of a brazen serpent 
as a healing god, is quite a different person from 
the august Egyptian we had deduced, who dis- 
closed to his people a religion in which all magic 
and sorcery were most strictly abhorred. Our 
Egyptian Moses differs perhaps no less from the 
Midian Moses than the universal god Aton 
differed from the demon Jahve on his divine 
mountain. And if we concede any measure of 
truth to the information furnished by modern 
historians, then we have to admit that the thread 
we wished to draw from the surmise that Moses 
was an Egyptian has broken off for the second 
time; this time, so it seems, without any hope 
of its being tied again. 


A way unexpectedly presents itself, however, 
out of this difficulty too. The efforts to recognize 
in Moses a figure transcending the priest of 

! L.c., p. 47. 


Qades, and confirming the renown with which 
tradition had invested him, were continued after 
E. Meyer by Gressmann and others. In 1922 
E. Sellin made a discovery of decisive importance. 1 
He found in the book of the prophet Hosea 
second half of the eighth century unmistakable 
traces of a tradition to the effect that the founder 
of their religion (Moses) met a violent end in a 
rebellion of his stubborn and refractory people. 
The religion he had instituted was at the same 
time abandoned. This tradition is not restricted 
to Hosea : it recurs in the writings of most of the 
later prophets; indeed, according to Sellin, it 
was the basis of all the later expectations of the 
Messiah. Towards the end of the Babylonian 
exile the hope arose among the Jewish people 
that the man they had so callously murdered 
would return from the realm of the dead and lead 
his contrite people and perhaps not only his 
people into the land of eternal bliss. The 
palpable connections with the destiny of the 
Founder of a later religion do not lie in our present 

Naturally I am not in a position to decide 
whether Sellin has correctly interpreted the 
relevant passages in the prophets. If he is right, 
however, we may regard as historically credible 
the tradition he recognized: for such things are 

1 E. Sellin, Most und seine Bedeutung fuer die israelitisch-juediscfu 
Religionsgeschichte, 1922. 


not readily invented there is no tangible motive 
for doing so. And if they have really happened 
the wish to forget them is easily understood. We 
need not accept every detail of the tradition. 
Sellin thinks that Shittim in the land east of the 
Jordan is indicated as the scene of the violent 
deed. We shall see, however, that the choice of 
this locality does not accord with our argument. 
Let us adopt from Sellin the surmise that the 
Egyptian Moses was killed by the Jews and the 
religion he instituted abandoned. It allows us to 
spin our thread further without contradicting the 
trustworthy results of historical research. But we 
venture to be independent of the historians in 
other respects and to blaze our own trail. The 
Exodus from Egypt remains our starting-point. 
It must have been a considerable number that 
left the country with Moses ; a small crowd would 
not have been worth the while of that ambitious 
man, with his great schemes. The immigrants 
had probably been in the country long enough 
to develop into a numerous people. We shall 
certainly not go astray, however, if we suppose 
with the majority of research workers that only a 
part of those who later became the Jewish people 
had undergone the fate of bondage in Egypt. In 
other words, the tribe returning from Egypt 
combined later in the country between Egypt and 
Canaan with other related tribes that had been 
settled there for some time. This union, from 


which was born the people of Israel, expressed 
itself in the adoption of a new religion, common 
to all the tribes, the religion of Jahve; according 
to E. Meyer, this came about in Qades under 
the influence of the Midianites. Thereupon the 
people felt strong enough to undertake the 
invasion of Canaan. It does not fit in with this 
course of events that the catastrophe to Moses and 
his religion should have taken place in the land 
east of the Jordan it must have happened a long 
time before the union. 

It is certain that many very diverse elements 
contributed to the building up of the Jewish 
people, but the greatest difference among them 
must have depended on whether they had 
experienced the sojourn in Egypt and what 
followed it, or not. From this point of view we 
may say that the nation was made up by the 
union of two constituents, and it accords with this 
fact that, after a short period of political unity, 
it broke asunder into two parts the Kingdom of 
Israel and the Kingdom of Judah. History loves 
such restorations, in which later fusions are re- 
dissolved and former separations become once 
more apparent. The most impressive example 
a very well-known one was provided by the 
Reformation, when, after an interval of more 
than a thousand years, it brought to light again 
the frontier between the Germania that had been 
Roman and the part that had always remained 


independent. With the Jewish people we cannot 
verify such a faithful reproduction of the former 
state of affairs. Our knowledge of those times is 
too uncertain to permit the assumption that the 
northern Kingdom had absorbed the original 
settlers, the southern those returning from Egypt; 
but the later dissolution, in this case also, could 
not have been unconnected with the earlier 
union. The former Egyptians were probably 
fewer than the others, but they proved to be on 
a higher level culturally. They exercised a more 
important influence on the later development of 
the people because they brought with them a 
tradition the others lacked. 

Perhaps they brought something else, some- 
thing more tangible than a tradition. Among the 
greatest riddles of Jewish prehistoric times is that 
concerning the antecedents of the Levites. They 
are said to have been derived from one of the 
twelve tribes of Israel, the tribe of Levi, but no 
tradition has ever ventured to pronounce on 
where that tribe originally dwelt or what portion 
of the conquered country of Canaan had been 
allotted to it. They occupied the most important 
priestly positions, but yet they were distinguished 
from the priests. A Levite is not necessarily a 
priest; it is not the name of a caste. Our sup- 
position about the person of Moses suggests an 
explanation. It is not credible that a great 
gentleman like the Egyptian Moses approached 


a people strange to him without an escort. He 
must have brought his retinue with him, his 
nearest adherents, his scribes, his servants. These 
were the original Levites. Tradition maintains 
that Moses was a Levite. This seems a transparent 
distortion of the actual state of affairs: the 
Levites were Moses 5 people. This solution is 
supported by what I mentioned in my previous 
essay: that in later times we find Egyptian 
names only among the Levites. 1 We may suppose 
that a fair number of these Moses people escaped 
the fate that overtook him and his religion. 
They increased in the following generations and 
fused with the people among whom they lived, 
but they remained faithful to their master, 
honoured his memory and retained the tradition 
of his teaching. At the time of the union with 
the followers of Jahve they formed an influential 
minority, culturally superior to the rest. 

I suggest and it is only a suggestion so far 
that between the downfall of Moses and the 
founding of a religion at Qades two generations 
were born and vanished, that perhaps even a 
century elapsed. I do not see my way to deter- 
mine whether the Neo -Egyptians as I should 
like to call those who returned from Egypt in 
distinction to the other Jews met with their 

1 This assumption fits in well with what Yahuda says about the 
Egyptian influence on early Jewish writings. See A. S. Yahuda, 
Die Sprache des Pentateuch in ihren Beziehungen zum Aegyptischen, 1929. 


blood relations after these had already accepted 
the Jahve religion or before that had happened. 
Perhaps the latter is more likely. It makes no 
difference to the final result. What happened at 
Qades was a compromise, in which the part 
taken by the Moses tribe is unmistakable. 

Here we may call again on the custom of 
circumcision which a kind of " Leitfossil " 
has repeatedly rendered us important services. 
This custom also became the law in the Jahve 
religion, and since it is inextricably connected 
with Egypt its adoption must signify a con- 
cession to the people of Moses. They or the 
Levites among them would not forgo this sign 
of their consecration. They wanted to save so 
much of their old religion, and for that price they 
were willing to recognize the new deity and all 
that the Midian priests had to say about him. 
Possibly they managed to obtain still other con- 
cessions. We have already mentioned that Jewish 
ritual ordains a certain economy in the use of the 
name of God. Instead of Jahve they had to say 
Adonai. It is tempting to fit this commandment 
into our argument, but that is merely a surmise. 
The prohibition upon uttering the name of God 
is, as is well known, a primaeval taboo. Why 
exactly it was renewed in the Jewish command- 
ments is not quite clear; it is not out of the 
question that this happened under the influence 
of a new motive. There is no reason to suppose 


that the commandment was consistently followed; 
the word Jahve was freely used in the formation 
of personal theophorous names, i.e. in combina- 
tions such as Jochanan, Jehu, Joshua. Yet there 
is something peculiar about this name. It is 
well known that Biblical exegesis recognizes two 
sources of the Hexateuch. They are called J and 
E because the one uses the holy name of Jahve, 
the other that of Elohim ; Elohim, it is true, not 
Adonai. But we may here quote the remark of 
one writer: the different names are a distinct 
sign of originally different gods. 1 

We admitted the adherence to the custom of 
circumcision as evidence that at the founding of 
the new religion at Qades a compromise had 
taken place. What it consisted in we learn from 
both J and E; the two accounts coincide and 
must therefore go back to a common source, 
either a written source or an oral tradition. The 
guiding purpose was to prove the greatness and 
power of the new god Jahve. Since the Moses 
people attached such great importance to their 
experience of the Exodus from Egypt, the deed of 
freeing them had to be ascribed to Jahve; it had 
to be adorned with features that proved the 
terrific grandeur of this volcano god, such as, for 
example, the pillar of smoke which changed to 
one of fire by night, or the storm that parted the 
waters so that the pursuers were drowned by the 

1 Gressmann Mose und Seine ^eit^ 1913. 


returning floods of water. The Exodus and the 
founding of the new religion were thus brought 
close together in time, the long interval between 
them being denied. The bestowal of the Ten 
Commandments too was said to have taken place, 
not at Qades, but at the foot of the Holy Moun- 
tain amidst the signs of a volcanic eruption. This 
description, however, did a serious wrong to the 
memory of the man Moses; it was he, and not 
the volcano god, who had freed his people from 
Egypt. Some compensation was therefore due to 
him, and it was given by transposing Moses to 
Qades or to the mount Sinai -Horeb and putting 
him in the place of the Midianite priest. We shall 
consider later how this solution satisfied another, 
irresistibly urgent, tendency. By its means a 
balance, so to speak, was established : Jahve was 
allowed to extend his reach to Egypt from his 
mountain in Midia, while the existence and 
activity of Moses were transferred to Qades and 
the country east of the Jordan. This is how he 
became one with the person who later established 
a religion, the son-in-law of the Midianite 
Jethro, the man to whom he lent his name Moses. 
We know nothing personal, however, about this 
other Moses he is entirely obscured by the first, 
the Egyptian Moses except possibly from clues 
provided by the contradictions to be found in the 
Bible in the characterization of Moses. He is 
often enough described as masterful, hot-tempered, 


even violent, and yet it is also said of him 
that he was the most patient and sweet-tempered 
of all men. It is clear that the latter qualities 
would have been of no use to the Egyptian Moses 
who planned such great and difficult projects for 
his people. Perhaps they belonged to the other, 
the Midianite. I think we are justified in separat- 
ing the two persons from each other and in 
assuming that the Egyptian Moses never was in 
Qades and had never heard the name of Jahve, 
whereas the Midianite Moses never set foot in 
Egypt and knew nothing of Aton. In order to 
make the two people into one, tradition or legend 
had to bring the Egyptian Moses to Midian ; and 
we have seen that more than one explanation 
was given for it. 


I am quite prepared to hear anew the reproach 
that I have put forward my reconstruction of the 
early history of the tribe of Israel with undue and 
unjustified certitude. I shall not feel this criticism 
to be too harsh, since it finds an echo in my own 
judgement. I know myself that this reconstruc- 
tion has its weak places, but it also has its strong 
ones. On the whole the arguments in favour 
of continuing this work in the same direction 
prevail. The Biblical record before us contains 


valuable, nay invaluable, historical evidence. It 
has, however, been distorted by tendentious 
influences and elaborated by the products of 
poetical invention. In our work we have already 
been able to divine one of these distorting ten- 
dencies. This discovery shall guide us on our 
way. It is a hint to uncover other similar distorting 
influences. If we find reasons for recognizing the 
distortions produced by them, then we shall be able 
to bring to light more of the true course of events. 
Let us begin by marking what critical research 
work on the Bible has to say about how the 
Hexateuch the five Books of Moses and the 
Book of Joshua, for they alone are of interest to 
us here came to be written. 1 The oldest source 
is considered to be J, the Jahvistic, in the author 
of which the most modern research workers think 
they can recognize the priest Ebjatar, a con- 
temporary of King David. 2 A little later, it is 
not known how much later, comes the so-called 
Elohistic, belonging to the northern kingdom. 8 
After the destruction of this kingdom, in 722 B.C., 
a Jewish priest combined portions of J and E and 
added his own contributions. His compilation 
is designated as JE. In the seventh century 
Deuteronomy, the fifth book, was added, it being 
alleged that the whole of it had been newly found 

1 Encyclopedia Britannica, XI Edition, 1910, Art.: Bible. 

2 See Auerbach, Wuste und Gelobtes Land, 1932. 

3 Astruc in 1 753 was the first to distinguish between Jahvist and 


in the Temple. In the time after the destruction 
of the Temple, in 586 B.C., during the Exile and 
after the return, is placed the re-writing called 
the Priestly Code. The fifth century saw a 
definitive revision, and since then the work has 
not been materially altered. 1 

The history of King David and his time is most 
probably the work of one of his contemporaries. 
It is real history, five hundred years before 
Herodotus, the " Father of History." One would 
begin to understand this achievement if one 
assumed, in terms of my hypothesis, Egyptian 
influence. 2 The suggestion has even been made 
that early Israelites, the scribes of Moses, had a 
hand in the invention of the first alphabet. 3 How 
far the accounts of former times are based on 
earlier sources or on oral tradition, and what 

1 It is historically certain that the Jewish type was definitely 
fixed as a result of the reforms by Ezra and Nehemiah in the fifth 
century B.C., therefore after the Exile, during the reign of the 
friendly Persians. According to our reckoning approximately 900 
years had then passed since the appearance of Moses. By these 
reforms the regulations aiming at the consecration of the chosen 
people were taken seriously: the separation from the other tribes 
were put into force by forbidding mixed marriages; the Penta- 
teuch, the real compilation of the law, was codified in its definitive 
form; the re -writing known as the Priestly Code was finished. It 
seems certain, however, that the reform did not adopt any new 
tendencies, but simply took over and consolidated former sugges- 

2 Gf. Yahuda, l.c. 

3 If they were bound by the prohibition against making images 
they had even a motive for forsaking the hieroglyphic picture 
writing when they adapted their written signs for the expression 
of a new language. 


interval elapsed between an event and its fixation 
by writing, we are naturally unable to know. 
The text, however, as we find it to-day tells us 
enough about its own history. Two distinct forces, 
diametrically opposed to each other, have left 
their traces on it. On the one hand, certain 
transformations got to work on it, falsifying the 
text in accord with secret tendencies, maiming 
and extending it until it was turned into its 
opposite. On the other hand, an indulgent piety 
reigned over it, anxious to keep everything as it 
stood, indifferent to whether the details fitted 
together or nullified one another. Thus almost 
everywhere there can be found striking omissions, 
disturbing repetitions, palpable contradictions, 
signs of things the communication of which was 
never intended. The distortion of a text is not 
unlike a murder. The difficulty lies not in the 
execution of the deed but in the doing away with 
the traces. One could wish to give the word 
" distortion " the double meaning to which it 
has a right, although it is no longer used in this 
sense. It should mean not only " to change the 
appearance of," but also " to wrench apart, 35 
" to put in another place. 55 That is why in so 
many textual distortions we may count on finding 
the suppressed and abnegated material hidden 
away somewhere, though in an altered shape and 
torn out of its original connection. Only it is 
not always easy to recognize it. 


The distorting tendencies we want to detect 
must have influenced the traditions before they 
were written down. One of them, perhaps the 
strongest of all, we have already discovered. We 
said that when the new god Jahve in Qades was 
instituted something had to be done to glorify 
him. It is truer to say: He had to be established, 
made room for; traces of former religions had to 
be extinguished. This seems to have been done 
successfully with the religion of the settled tribes ; 
no more was heard of it. With the returning 
tribes the task was not so easy; they were deter- 
mined not to be deprived of the Exodus from 
Egypt, the man Moses and the custom of circum- 
cision. It is true they had been in Egypt, but they 
had left it again, and from now on every trace of 
Egyptian influence was to be denied. Moses was 
disposed of by displacing him to Midian and 
Qades and making him into one person with the 
priest who founded the Jahve religion. Circum- 
cision, the most compromising sign of the 
dependence on Egypt, had to be retained, but, in 
spite of all the existing evidence, every endeavour 
was made to divorce this custom from Egypt. 
The enigmatic passage in Exodus, written in an 
almost incomprehensible style, saying that God 
had been wroth with Moses for neglecting cir- 
cumcision and that his Midianite wife saved his 
life by a speedy operation, can be interpreted 
only as a deliberate contradiction of the significant 


truth. We shall soon come across another inven- 
tion for the purpose of invalidating a piece of 
inconvenient evidence. 

It is hardly to be described as a new tendency 
it is only the continuation of the same one 
when we find an endeavour completely to deny 
that Jahve was a new god, one alien to the Jews. 
For that purpose the myths of the patriarchs, 
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are drawn upon. 
Jahve maintains that He had been the God of 
those patriarchs; it is true and He has to admit 
this Himself they did not worship Him under 
this name. 1 

He does not add under what other name He used 
to be worshipped. Here the opportunity was taken 
to deal a decisive blow at the Egyptian origin of 
the custom of circumcision. Jahve was said to have 
already demanded it from Abraham, to have 
instituted it as sign of the bond between him and 
Abraham's descendants. This, however, was a 
particularly clumsy invention. If one wished 
to use a sign to distinguish someone from other 
people, one would choose something that the 
others did not possess certainly not something 
that millions could show. An Israelite, finding 
himself in Egypt, would have had to recognize 
all Egyptians as brothers, bound by the same bond, 
brothers in Jahve. The fact that circumcision 

1 The restrictions in the use of the new name do not become any 
more comprehensible through this, though much more suspect. 


was native to the Egyptians could not pos- 
sibly have been unknown to the Israelites who 
created the text of the Bible. The passage from 
Joshua quoted by E. Meyer freely admits this; but 
nevertheless the fact had at all costs to be denied. 
We cannot expect religious myths to pay 
scrupulous attention to logical connections. 
Otherwise the feeling of the people might have 
taken exception -justifiably so to the behaviour 
of a deity who makes a covenant with his patri- 
archs containing mutual obligations, and then 
ignores his human partners for centuries until it 
suddenly occurs to him to reveal himself again 
to their descendants. Still more astonishing is 
the conception of a god suddenly " choosing " a 
people, making it " his " people and himself its 
own god. I believe it is the only case in the 
history of human religions. In other cases the 
people and their god belong inseparably together; 
they are one from the beginning. Sometimes, it 
is true, we hear of a people adopting another god, 
but never of a god choosing a new people. 
Perhaps we approach an understanding of this 
unique happening when we reflect on the con- 
nection between Moses and the Jewish people. 
Moses had stooped to the Jews, had made them 
his people; they were his " chosen people/ 5 1 

1 Jahve was undoubtedly a volcano god. There was no reason 
for the inhabitants of Egypt to worship him. I am certainly not 
the first to be struck by the similarity of the name Jahve to the 
root of the name of another god : Jupiter, Jovis. The composite 


There was yet another purpose in bringing the 
patriarchs into the new Jahve religion. They had 
lived in Canaan; their memory was connected 
with certain localities in the country. Possibly 
they themselves had been Canaanite heroes or 
local divinities whom the immigrating Israelites 
had adopted for their early history. By evoking 
them one gave proof, so to speak, of having been 
born and bred in the country, and denied the 
odium that clings to the alien conqueror. It was 

name Jochanaan, made up in part from the Hebrew word Jahve 
and having a rather similar meaning to that of Godfrey or its 
Punic equivalent Hannibal, has become one of the most popular 
names of European Christendom in the forms of Johann, John, 
Jean, Juan. When the Italians reproduce it in the shape of 
Giovanni and then call one day of the week Giovedi they bring to 
light again a similarity which perhaps means nothing or possibly 
means very much. Far-reaching possibilities, though very in- 
secure ones, open out here. In those dark centuries which 
historical research is only beginning to explore, the countries 
around the eastern basin of the Mediterranean were apparently 
the scene of frequent and violent volcanic eruptions which were 
bound to make the deepest impression on the inhabitants. Evans 
supposes that the final destruction of the palace of Minos at 
Knossos was also the result of an earthquake. In Crete, as 
probably everywhere in the ^Sgean world, the great Mother 
Goddess was then worshipped. The observation that she was 
unable to guard her house against the attack of a stronger power 
might have contributed to her having to cede her place to a male 
deity, whereupon the volcano god had the first right to replace 
her. Zeus still bears the name of " the Earth -shaker." There is 
hardly a doubt that in those obscure times mother deities were 
replaced by male gods (perhaps originally their sons). Specially 
impressive is the fate of Pallas Athene, who was no doubt the 
local form of the mother deity ; through the religious revolution 
she was reduced to a daughter, robbed of her own mother, and 
eternally debarred from motherhood by the taboo of virginity. 


a clever turn: the god Jahve gave them only 
what their ancestors had once possessed. 

In the later contributions to the Biblical text 
the tendency to avoid mentioning Qades met 
with success. The site of the founding of the new 
religion definitely became the divine mountains 
Sinai-Horeb. The motive is not clearly visible; 
perhaps they did not want to be reminded of the 
influence of Midian. But all later distortions, 
especially those of the Priestly Code, serve another 
aim. There was no longer any need to alter in a 
particular direction descriptions of happenings of 
long ago; that had long been done. On the 
other hand, an endeavour was made to date 
back to an early time certain laws and institu- 
tions of the present, to base them as a rule on the 
Mosaic law and to derive from this their claim to 
holiness and binding force. However much the 
picture of past times in this way became falsified, 
the procedure does not lack a certain psycho- 
logical justification. It reflected the fact that in 
the course of many centuries about 800 years 
had elapsed between the Exodus and the fixation 
of the Biblical text by Ezra and Nehemiah the 
religion of Jahve had followed a retrograde 
development that had culminated in a fusion 
(perhaps to the point of actual identity) with the 
original religion of Moses. 

And this is the essential outcome: the fateful 
content of the religious history of the Jews. 



Among all the events of Jewish prehistory that 
poets, priests and historians of a later age under- 
took to portray there was an outstanding one the 
suppression of which was called for by the most 
obvious and best of human motives. It was the 
murder of the great leader and liberator Moses, 
which Sellin divined from clues furnished by the 
Prophets. Sellings presumption cannot be called 
fanciful; it is probable enough. Moses, trained 
in Ikhnaton's school, employed the same methods 
as the king; he gave commands and forced his 
religion on the people. 1 Perhaps Moses 5 doctrine 
was still more uncompromising than that of his 
Master; he had no need to retain any connection 
with the religion of the Sun God since the school 
of On would have no importance for his alien 
people. Moses met with the same fate as Ikhnaton, 
that fate which awaits all enlightened despots. 
The Jewish people of Moses was quite as unable 
to bear such a highly spiritualized religion, to 
find in what it offered satisfaction for their needs, 
as were the Egyptians of the Eighteenth Dynasty. 
In both cases the same thing happened: those 
who felt themselves kept in tutelage, or who felt 
dispossessed, revolted and threw off the burden 

1 In those times any other form of influence would scarcely have 
been possible. 


of a religion that had been forced on them. But 
while the tame Egyptians waited until fate had 
removed the sacred person of their Pharaoh, the 
savage Semites took their destiny into their own 
hands and did away with their tyrant. 1 

Nor can we maintain that the Biblical text 
preserved to us does not prepare us for such an 
end to Moses. The account of the " Wandering 
in the Wilderness " which might stand for the 
time of Moses' rule describes a series of grave 
revolts against his authority which, by Jahve's 
command, were suppressed with savage chastise- 
ment. It is easy to imagine that one of those 
revolts came to another end than the text admits. 
The people's falling away from the new religion 
is also mentioned in the text, though as a mere 
episode. It is the story of the golden calf, where 
by an adroit turn the breaking of the tables of the 
law which has to be understood symbolically 
(= "he has broken the law ") is ascribed 
to Moses himself and imputed to his angry 

There came a time when the people regretted 
the murder of Moses and tried to forget it. This 
was certainly so at the time of the coming 

1 It is truly remarkable how seldom we hear during the millenia 
of Egyptian history of violent depositions or assassinations of a 
Pharaoh. A comparison with Assyrian history, for example, must 
increase this astonishment. The reason may, of course, be that 
with the Egyptians historical recording served exclusively official 


together at Qades. If, however, the Exodus were 
brought nearer in time to the founding of their 
religion in the oasis, and one allowed Moses 
instead of the other founder to help in it, then 
not only were the claims of the Moses people 
satisfied, but the painful fact of his violent 
removal was also successfully denied. In reality 
it is most unlikely that Moses could have par- 
ticipated in the events at Qades, even if his life 
had not been shortened. 

Here we must try to elucidate the sequence of 
these events. We have placed the Exodus from 
Egypt in the time after the extinction of the 
Eighteenth Dynasty (1350). It might have 
happened then or a little later, for the Egyptian 
chroniclers included the subsequent years of 
anarchy in the reign of Haremhab, the king who 
brought it to an end and who reigned until 1315. 
The next aid in fixing the chronology and it is 
the only one is given by the stele of Merneptah 
(1225-1215), which extols the victory over 
Isiraal (Israel) and the destruction of their seeds 
(sic). Unfortunately the value of this stele is 
doubtful ; it is taken to be evidence that Israelite 
tribes were at that date already settled in 
Canaan. 1 E. Meyer rightly concludes from this 
stele that Merneptah could not have been the 
Pharaoh of the Exodus, as one had previously 
been wont to assume. The Exodus must belong 

1 E. Meyer, I.e., p. 222. 


to an earlier period. The question who was 
Pharaoh at the time of the Exodus appears to 
me an idle one. There was no Pharaoh at that 
time, because the Exodus happened during the 
interregnum. But the Merneptah stele does not 
throw any light on the possible date of the fusion 
and the acceptance of the new religion in Qades. 
All we can say with certainty is that they took 
place some time between 1350 and 1215. Within 
this century we assume the Exodus to have been 
very near to the first date, the events in Qades 
not far from the second. The greater part of the 
period we would reserve for the interval between 
the two events. A fairly long time would be 
necessary for the passions of the returning tribes 
to cool down after the murder of Moses and for 
the influence of the Moses people, the Levites, to 
have become so strong as the compromise in 
Qades presupposes. Two generations, sixty years, 
might suffice, but only just. The date inferred 
from the stele of Merneptah falls too early, and 
as we know that in our hypothesis one assumption 
only rests on another we have to admit that this 
discussion shows a weak spot in the construction. 
Unfortunately everything connected with the 
settling of the Jewish people in Canaan is highly 
obscure and confused. We might, of course, use 
the expedient of supposing that the name in the 
Israel stele does not refer to the tribes whose fate 
we are trying to follow and who later on were 


united in the people of Israel. After all, the name 
of the Habiru (= Hebrews) from the Amarna 
time was also passed on to this people. 

Whenever it was that the different tribes were 
united into a nation by accepting the same 
religion it might very well have been an occur- 
rence of no great importance for the history of 
the world. The new religion might have been 
swept away by the stream of events, Jahve would 
then have taken his place in the procession of 
erstwhile gods which Flaubert visualized, and of 
his people all the twelve tribes would have been 
" lost," not only the ten for whom the Anglo- 
Saxons have so long been searching. The god 
Jahve, to whom the Midianite Moses led a new 
people, was probably in no way a remarkable 
being. A rude, narrow-minded local god, violent 
and blood-thirsty, he had promised his adherents 
to give them " a land flowing with milk and 
honey " and he encouraged them to rid the 
country of its present inhabitants " with the edge 
of the sword. " It is truly astonishing that in 
spite of all the revisions in the Biblical text so 
much was allowed to stand whereby we may 
recognize his original nature. It is not even sure 
that his religion was a true monotheism, that it 
denied the character of god to other divinities. 
It probably sufficed that one's own god was more 
powerful than all strange gods. When the 
sequence of events took quite another course than 


such beginnings would lead us to expect there 
can be only one reason for it. To one part of the 
people the Egyptian Moses had given another 
and more spiritual conception of God, a single 
God who embraces the whole world, one as all- 
loving as he was all-powerful, who averse to all 
ceremonial and magic set humanity as its 
highest aim a life of truth and justice. For, 
incomplete as our information about the ethical 
side of the Aton religion may be, it is surely 
significant that Ikhnaton regularly described 
himself in his inscriptions as " living in Maat " 
(truth, justice). 1 In the long run it did not matter 
that the people, probably after a very short time, 
renounced the teaching of Moses and removed 
the man himself. The tradition itself remained 
and its influence reached though only slowly, 
in the course of centuries the aim that was 
denied to Moses himself. The god Jahve attained 
undeserved honour when, from Qades onward, 
Moses 5 deed of liberation was put down to his 
account; but he had to pay dear for this usurpa- 
tion. The shadow of the god whose place he had 
taken became stronger than himself; at the end 
of the historical development there arose beyond 
his Being that of the forgotten Mosaic God. 
None can doubt that it was only the idea of this 

1 His hymns lay stress on not only the universality and oneness of 
God, but also His loving kindness for all creatures; they invite 
believers to enjoy nature and its beauties. Gp. Breasted, The 
Dawn of Conscience. 



other God that enabled the people of Israel to 
surmount all their hardships and to survive until 
our time. 

It is no longer possible to determine the part 
the Levites played in the final victory of the 
Mosaic God over Jahve. When the compromise 
at Qades was effected they had raised their voice 
for Moses, their memory being still green of the 
master whose followers and countrymen they 
were. During the centuries since then the Levites 
had become one with the people or with the 
priesthood and it had become the main task of 
the priests to develop and supervise the ritual, 
besides caring for the holy texts and revising them 
in accordance with their purposes. But was not 
all this sacrifice and ceremonial at bottom only 
magic and black art, such as the old doctrine of 
Moses had unconditionally condemned ? There 
arose from the midst of the people an unending 
succession of men, not necessarily descended from 
Moses 5 people, but seized by the great and power- 
ful tradition which had gradually grown in dark- 
ness, and it was these men, the prophets, who 
sedulously preached the old Mosaic doctrine: 
the Deity spurns sacrifice and ceremonial; He 
demands only belief and a life of truth and 
justice (Maat) . The efforts of the prophets met 
with enduring success; the doctrines with which 
they re-established the old belief became the 
permanent content of the Jewish religion. It is 


honour enough for the Jewish people that it has 
kept alive such a tradition and produced men who 
lent it their voice even if the stimulus had first 
come from outside, from a great stranger. 

This description of events would leave me with 
a feeling of uncertainty were it not that I can refer 
to the judgement of other, expert, research workers 
who see the importance of Moses for the history of 
Jewish religion in the same light, although they 
do not recognize his Egyptian origin. Sellin says, 
for example: I " Therefore we have to picture 
the true religion of Moses, the belief he proclaimed 
in one, ethical god, as being from now on, as a 
matter of course, the possession of a small circle 
within the people. We cannot expect to find it 
from the start in the official cult, the priests 3 
religion, in the general belief of the people. All 
we can expect is that here and there a spark flies 
up from the spiritual fire he had kindled, that 
his ideas have not died out, but have quietly 
influenced beliefs and customs until, sooner or 
later, under the influence of special events, or 
through some personality particularly immersed 
in this belief, they broke forth again more strongly 
and gained dominance with the broad mass of 
the people. It is from this point of view that we 
have to regard the early religious history of 
the old Israelites. Were we to reconstruct the 
Mosaic religion after the pattern laid down in the 

1 Sellin, I.e., p. 52. 


historical documents that describe the religion of 
the first five centuries in Canaan we should fall 
into the worst methodical error. 55 Volz 1 expresses 
himself still more explicitly. He says : " that 
the heaven -soaring work of Moses was at first 
hardly understood and feebly carried out, until 
during the course of centuries it penetrated more 
and more into the spirit of the people and at last 
found kindred souls in the great prophets who 
continued the work of the lonely Founder." 

With this I have come to an end, my sole 
purpose having been to fit the figure of an 
Egyptian Moses into the framework of Jewish 
history. I may now express my conclusion in the 
shortest formula: To the well-known duality of 
that history two peoples who fuse together to 
form one nation, two kingdoms into which this 
nation divides, two names for the Deity in the 
source of the Bible we add two new ones : the 
founding of two new religions, the first one ousted 
by the second and yet reappearing victorious, 
two founders of religions, who are both called by 
the same name Moses and whose personalities 
we have to separate from each other. And all 
these dualities are necessary consequences of the 
first: one section of the people passed through 
what may properly be termed a traumatic 
experience which the other was spared. There 
still remains much to discuss, to explain and to 

1 Paul Volz: Mose, 1907, p. 64. 


assert. Only then would the interest in our 
purely historical study be fully warranted. In 
what exactly consists the intrinsic nature of a 
tradition, and in what resides its peculiar power, 
how impossible it is to deny the personal influence 
of individual great men on the history of the 
world, what profanation of the grandiose multi- 
formity of human life we commit if we recognize 
as sole motives those springing from material 
needs, from what sources certain ideas, especially 
religious ones, derive the power with which they 
subjugate individuals and peoples to study all 
this on the particular case of Jewish history would 
be an alluring task. Such a continuation of my 
essay would link up with conclusions laid down 
twenty-five years ago in Totem and Taboo. But 
I hardly trust my powers any further. 



Part III 



i. Written before March 1938 (Vienna) 

WITH the audacity of one who has little or nothing 
to lose I propose to break a well-founded resolu- 
tion for the second time and to follow up my two 
essays on Moses (Imago, Bd. XXIII, Heft i and 3) 
with the final part, till now withheld. When I 
finished the last essay I said I knew full well that 
my powers would not suffice for the task. I was, 
of course, referring to the weakening of the crea- 
tive faculties which accompanies old age, 1 but 
there was also another obstacle. We live in very 
remarkable times. We find with astonishment 
that progress has concluded an alliance with bar- 
barism. In Soviet Russia the attempt has been 

1 I do not share the opinion of my gifted contemporary Bernard 
Shaw that men would achieve anything worth while only if they 
could attain the age of 300 years. With the mere lengthening of 
the period of life nothing would be gained unless much in the 
conditions of life were radically changed as well. 



shall guard against doing anything that would 
serve his interests is more dangerous than the old 
one, with whom we have learned to live in peace. 
Psycho -analytic research is in any case the subject 
of suspicious attention from Catholicism. I do 
not maintain that this suspicion is unmerited. If 
our research leads us to a result that reduces 
religion to the status of a neurosis of mankind and 
explains its grandiose powers in the ^ame way as 
we should a neurotic obsession in our individual 
patients, then we may be sure we shall incur in 
this country the greatest resentment of the powers 
that be. It is not that I have anything new to say, 
nothing that I have not clearly expressed a quarter 
of a century ago. All that, however, has been for- 
gotten, and it would undoubtedly have some 
effect were I to repeat it now and to illustrate it 
by an example typical of the way in which re- 
ligions are founded. It would probably lead to our 
being forbidden to work in Psycho -Analysis. Such 
violent methods of suppression are by no means 
alien to the Catholic Church ; she feels it rather as 
an intrusion into her privileges when other people 
resort to the same means. Psycho -Analysis, how- 
ever, which has travelled everywhere during the 
course of my long life, has not yet found a more 
serviceable home than in the city where it was 
born and grew. 

I do not only think so, I know that this external 
danger will deter me from publishing the last 


part of my treatise on Moses. I have tried to 
remove this obstacle by telling myself that my 
fear is based on an over-estimation of my 
personal importance, and that the authorities 
would probably be quite indifferent to what I 
should have to say about Moses and the origin 
of monotheistic religions. Yet I do not feel sure 
that my judgement is correct. It seems to me 
more likely that malice and an appetite for 
sensation would make up for the importance I 
may lack in the eyes of the world. So I shall not 
publish this essay. But that need not hinder me 
from writing it. The more so since it was written 
once before, two years ago, and thus only needs 
re -writing and adding on to the two previous 
essays. Thus it may lie hid until the time comes 
when it may safely venture into the light of day, 
or until someone else who reaches the same 
opinions and conclusions can be told: " In 
darker days there lived a man who thought as 
you did." 

II. June 1938 (London) 

The exceptionally great difficulties which have 
weighed on me during the composition of this 
essay dealing with Moses inner misgivings as 
well as external hindrances are the reason why 
this third and final part comes to have two differ- 
ent prefaces which contradict, indeed even cancel, 


each other. For in the short interval between 
writing the two prefaces the outer conditions of 
the author have radically changed. Formerly 
I lived under the protection of the Catholic 
Church and feared that by publishing the essay 
I should lose that protection and that the practi- 
tioners and students of psycho-analysis in Austria 
would be forbidden their work. Then, suddenly, 
the German invasion broke in on us and Catholic- 
ism proved to be, as the Bible has it, " but a 
broken reed. 35 In the certainty of persecution 
now not only because of my work, but also 
because of my " race " I left with many friends 
the city which from early childhood, through 
78 years, had been a home to me. 

I found the kindliest welcome in beautiful, free, 
generous England. Here I live now, a welcome 
guest, relieved from that oppression and happy 
that I may again speak and write I almost said 
" think " as I want or have to. I dare now to 
make public the last part of my essay. 

There are no more external hindrances or at 
least none that need alarm one. In the few weeks 
of my stay I have received a large number of 
greetings, from friends who told me how glad 
they were to see me here, and from people un- 
known to me, barely interested in my work, who 
simply expressed their satisfaction that I had 
found freedom and security here. Besides all this 
there came, with a frequency bewildering to a 


foreigner, letters of another kind, expressing 
concern for the weal of my soul, and anxious to 
point me the way to Christ and to enlighten me 
about the future of Israel. The good people who 
wrote thus could not have known much about me. 
I expect, however, that when this new work of 
mine becomes known among my new compatriots 
I shall lose with my correspondents and a number 
of the others something of the sympathy they now 
extend to me. 

The inner difficulties were not to be changed 
by the different political system and the new 
domicile. Now as then I am uneasy when con- 
fronted with my own work; I miss the conscious- 
ness of unity and intimacy that should exist 
between the author and his work. This does not 
mean that I lack conviction in the correctness of 
my conclusions. That conviction I acquired a 
quarter of a century ago, when I wrote my book 
on Totem and Taboo (in 1912), and it has only 
become stronger since. From then on I have 
never doubted "that religious phenomena are to 
be understood only on the model of the neurotic 
symptoms of the individual, which are so familiar 
to us, as a return of long forgotten important 
happenings in the primaeval history of the human 
family, that they owe their obsessive character to 
that very origin and therefore derive their effect 
on mankind from the historical truth they contain. 
My uncertainty begins only at the point when I 


ask myself the question whether I have succeeded 
in proving this for the example of Jewish Mono- 
theism chosen here. To my critical faculties this 
treatise, proceeding from a study of the man 
Moses, seems like a dancer balancing on one toe. 
If I had not been able to find support in the 
analytic interpretation of the exposure myth and 
pass thence to Sellings suggestion concerning 
Moses 5 end, the whole treatise would have to 
remain unwritten. However, let me proceed. 

I begin by abstracting the results of my second 
the purely historical essay on Moses. I shall 
not examine them critically here, since they form 
the premisses of the psychological discussions 
which are based on them and which continually 
revert to them. 


i . The Historical Premisses 

The historical background of the events which 
have aroused our interest is as follows. Through 
the conquests of the Eighteenth Dynasty Egypt 
had become a world Empire. The new Im- 
perialism was reflected in the development of 
certain religious ideas, if not in those of the whole 
people, yet in those of the governing and in- 
tellectually active upper stratum. Under the 


influence of the priests of the Sun God at On 
(Heliopolis), possibly strengthened by suggestions 
from Asia, there arose the idea of a universal God 
Aton no longer restricted to one people and one 
country. With the young Amenhotep IV (who 
later changed his name to Ikhnaton) a Pharaoh 
succeeded to the throne who knew no higher in- 
terest than in developing the idea of such a God. 
He raised the Aton religion to the official religion 
and thereby the universal God became the Only 
God ; all that was said of the other gods became 
deceit and guile. With a superb implacability he 
resisted all the temptations of magical thought 
and discarded the illusion, dear particularly to 
the Egyptians, of a life after death. With an aston- 
ishing premonition of later scientific knowledge 
he recognised in the energy of the sun's radiation 
the source of all life on earth and worshipped the 
sun as the symbol of his God's power. He gloried 
in his joy in the Creation and in his life in Maat 
(truth and justice) . 

It is the first case in the history of mankind, 
and perhaps the purest, of a monotheistic religion. 
A deeper knowledge of the historical and psycho- 
logical conditions of its origin would be of 
inestimable value. Care was taken, however, 
that not much information concerning the Aton 
religion should come down to us. Already under 
the reign of Ikhnaton's weak successors everything 
he had created broke down. The priesthood 


he had suppressed vented their fury on his 
memory. The Aton religion was abolished; the 
capital of the heretic Pharaoh demolished and 
pillaged. In 13506.0. the Eighteenth Dynasty 
was extinguished; after an interval of anarchy 
the general Haremhab, who reigned until 1315, 
restored order. Ikhnaton's reforms seemed to be 
but an episode, doomed to be forgotten. 

This is what has been established historically 
and at this point our work of hypothesis begins. 
Among the intimates of Ikhnaton was a man who 
was perhaps called Thothrnes, as so many others 
were at that time; l the name does not matter, 
but its second part must have been -mose. He 
held high rank, and was a convinced adherent of 
the Aton religion, but in contradistinction to the 
brooding King he was forceful and passionate. 
For this man the death of Ikhnaton and the 
abolishing of his religion meant the end of all his 
hopes. Only proscribed or recanting could he 
remain in Egypt. If he were governor of a border 
province he might well have come into touch with 
a certain Semitic tribe which had immigrated 
several generations ago. In his disappointment 
and loneliness he turned to those strangers and 
sought in them for a compensation of what he 
had lost. He chose them for his people and tried 
to realize his own ideals through them. After he 

1 This, for example, was also the name of the sculptor whose 
workroom was discovered in Tell-el-Amarna. 



had left Egypt with them accompanied by his 
immediate followers he hallowed them by the 
custom of circumcision, gave them laws and 
introduced them to the Aton religion which the 
Egyptians had just discarded. Perhaps the rules 
the man Moses imposed on his Jews were even 
harder than those of his master and teacher 
Ikhnaton; perhaps he also relinquished the 
connection with the Sun God of On, to whom the 
latter had still adhered. 

For the Exodus from Egypt we must fix the 
time of the interregnum after 1350. The sub- 
sequent periods of time, until possession was 
taken of the land of Canaan, are especially 
obscure. Out of the darkness which the Biblical 
Text has here left or rather created the his- 
torical research of our days can distinguish two 
facts. The first, discovered by E. Sellin, is that 
the Jews, who even according to the Bible were 
stubborn and unruly towards their law-giver 
and leader, rebelled at last, killed him and threw 
off the imposed Aton religion as the Egyptians 
had done before them. The second fact, proved 
by E. Meyer, is that these Jews on their return 
from Egypt united with tribes nearly related to 
them, in the country bordering on Palestine, the 
Sinai peninsula and Arabia, and that there, in 
a fertile spot called Qades, they accepted under 
the influence of the Arabian Midianites a new 
religion, the worship of the volcano God Jahve. 


Soon after this they were ready to conquer 

The relationship in time of these two events to 
each other and to the Exodus is very uncertain. 
The next historical allusion is given in a stele of 
the Pharaoh Merneptah, who reigned until 1215, 
which numbers " Israel " among the vanquished 
in his conquests in Syria and Palestine. If we 
take the date of this stele as a terminus ad quern 
there remains for the whole course of events, 
starting from the Exodus, about a century 
after 1350 until before 1215. It is possible, 
however, that the name Israel does not yet refer 
to the tribes whose fate we are here following and 
that in reality we have a longer period at our 
disposal. The settling of the later Jewish people 
in Canaan was certainly not a swiftly achieved 
conquest; it was rather a series of successive 
struggles and must have stretched over a longish 
period. If we discard the restriction imposed by 
the Merneptah stele we may more readily assume 
thirty years, a generation, as the time of Moses l 
and two generations at least, probably more, 
until the union in Qades took place; 2 the interval 
between Qades and the setting out for Canaan 
need not have been long. Jewish tradition had 

1 This would accord with the forty years' wandering in the 
desert of which the Bible tells us. 

2 Thus about 1350-40 to 1320-10 for Moses, 1260 or perhaps 
rather later for Qades, the Merneptah stele before 1215. 


as I have shown in my last essay good reason to 
shorten the interval between the Exodus and the 
foundation of a religion in Qades ; our argument 
would incline us to favour the contrary. 

Till now we have been concerned with the ex- 
ternal aspects of the story, with an attempt to fill 
in the gaps of our historical knowledge in part 
a repetition of my second essay. Our interest 
follows the fate of Moses and his doctrines, to 
which the revolt of the Jews only apparently put 
an end. From the Jahvist account written down 
about IOOOB.C., though doubtless founded on 
earlier material we have learned that the union 
of the tribes and foundation of a religion in 
Qades represented a compromise, the two parts 
of which are still easily distinguishable. One 
partner was concerned only in denying the 
recency and foreignness of the God Jahve and 
in heightening his claim to the people's devotion. 
The other partner would not renounce memories, 
so dear to him, of the liberation from Egypt and 
the magnificent figure of his leader Moses; and, 
indeed, he succeeded in finding a place for the 
fact as well as for the man in the new representa- 
tion of Jewish early history, in retaining at least 
the outer sign of the Moses religion, namely 
circumcision, and in insisting on certain restric- 
tions in the use of the new divine name. I have 
said that the people who insisted on those 
demands were the descendants of the Moses 


followers, the Levites, separated by a few genera- 
tions only from the actual contemporaries and 
compatriots of Moses and attached to his memory 
by a tradition still green. The poetically elabor- 
ated accounts attributed to the Jahvist and to his 
later competitor the Elohist, are like gravestones, 
under which the truth about those early matters 
the nature of the Mosaic religion and the violent 
removal of the great man truths withdrawn 
from the knowledge of later generations, should, 
so to speak, be laid to eternal rest. And if we 
have divined aright the course of events, there is 
nothing mysterious about them; it might very 
well, however, have been the definite end of the 
Moses episode in the history of the Jewish people. 
The remarkable thing about it is that this was 
not so, that the most important effects of that 
experience should appear much later and should 
in the course of many centuries gradually force 
their way to expression. It is not likely that 
Jahve was very different in character from the 
gods of the neighbouring peoples and tribes; he 
wrestled with the other gods, it is true, just as 
the tribes fought among themselves, yet we may 
assume that a Jahve worshipper of that time 
would never have dreamt of doubting the exis- 
tence of the gods of Canaan, Moab, Amalek and 
so on, any more than he would the existence of 
the people who believed in them. The mono- 
theistic idea, which had blazed up in Ikhnaton's 


time, was again obscured and was to remain in 
darkness for a long time to come. On the island 
Elephantine, close to the first Nile cataract, 
discoveries have yielded the astonishing informa- 
tion that a Jewish military colony, settled there 
centuries ago, worshipped in their temples besides 
their chief god Jahu two female deities, one of 
whom was called Anat-Jahu. Those Jews, it is 
true, had been separated from the mother country 
and had not gone through the same religious 
development; the Persian government (in the 
fifth century B.C.) communicated to them the 
new ceremonial regulations of Jerusalem. 1 Re- 
turning to earlier times we may surely say that 
Jahve was quite unlike the Mosaic God. A ton 
had been a pacifist, like his deputy on earth 
or rather his model the Pharaoh Ikhnaton, who 
looked on with folded arms as the Empire his 
ancestors had won fell to pieces. For a people 
that was preparing to conquer new lands by 
violence Jahve was certainly better suited. More- 
over, what was worthy of honour in the Mosaic 
God was beyond the comprehension of a primitive 

I have already mentioned and in this I am 
supported by the opinion of other workers 
that the central fact of the development of Jewish 
religion was this: in the course of time Jahve 
lost his own character and became more and more 

1 Auerbach: W tiste und Gelobtes Land. Bd. II, 1936. 


like the old God of Moses, Aton. Differences 
remained, it is true, and at first sight they would 
seem important; yet they are easy to explain. 
Aton had begun his reign in Egypt in a happy 
period of security, and even when the Empire 
began to shake in its foundations his followers 
had been able to turn away from worldly matters 
and to continue praising and enjoying his 
creations. To the Jewish people fate dealt a 
series of severe trials and painful experiences, so 
their God became hard, relentless and, as it were, 
wrapped in gloom. He retained the character of 
an universal God who reigned over all lands and 
peoples; ''the fact, however, that his worship had 
passed from the Egyptians to the Jews found its 
expression in the added doctrine that the Jews 
were his chosen people, whose special obligations 
would in the end find their special reward. It 
might not have been easy for that people to 
reconcile their belief in their being preferred to 
all others by an all-powerful God with the dire 
experiences of their sad fate. But they did not 
let doubts assail them, they increased their own 
feelings of guilt to silence their mistrust and 
perhaps in the end they referred to " God's 
unfathomable will," as religious people do to 
this day. If there was wonder that he allowed 
ever new tyrants to come who subjected and ill- 
treated his people the Assyrians, Babylonians, 
Persians yet his power was recognized in that 


all those wicked enemies got defeated in their 
turn and their empires destroyed. 

In three important points the later Jewish God 
became identical with the old Mosaic God. The 
first and decisive point is that he was really 
recognized as the only God, beside whom another 
god was unthinkable. Ikhnaton's monotheism 
was taken seriously by an entire people; indeed, 
this people clung to it to such an extent that it 
became the principal content of their intellectual 
life and displaced all other interests. The people 
and the priesthood, now the dominating part of 
it, were unanimous on that point; but the priests, 
in confining their activities to elaborating the 
ceremonial for his worship, found themselves in 
opposition to strong tendencies within the people 
which endeavoured to revive two other doctrines 
of Moses about his God. The prophets' voices 
untiringly proclaimed that God disdained cere- 
monial and sacrifice and asked nothing but a 
belief in Him and a life in truth and justice. 
When they praised the simplicity and holiness of 
their life in the desert they surely stood under the 
influence of Mosaic ideals. 

It is time now to raise the question whether 
there is any need at all to invoke Moses' influence 
on the final shape of the Jewish idea of their 
God, whether it is not enough to assume a 
spontaneous development to a higher spirituality 
during a cultural life extending over many 


centuries. On this possible explanation, which 
would put an end to all our guessing, I would 
make two comments. First that it does not explain 
anything. The same conditions did not lead to 
monotheism with the Greek people, who were 
surely most gifted, but to a breaking up of poly- 
theistic religion and to the beginning of philo- 
sophical thought. In Egypt monotheism had 
grown as far as we understand its growth as 
an ancillary effect of imperialism ; God was the 
reflection of a Pharaoh autocratically governing 
a great world empire. With the Jews the political 
conditions were most unfavourable for a develop- 
ment away from the idea of an exclusive national 
God towards that of an universal ruler of the 
world. Whence then did this tiny and impotent 
nation derive the audacity to pass themselves off 
for the favourite child of the Sovereign Lord ? 
The question of the origin of monotheism among 
the Jews would thus remain unanswered or else 
one would have to be content with the current 
answer that it was the expression of their par- 
ticular religious genius. We know that genius 
is incomprehensible and unaccountable and it 
should therefore not be called upon as an 
explanation until every other solution has failed. 1 
Furthermore, there is the fact that Jewish 
records and history themselves show us the way 

1 The same consideration holds good for the remarkable case of 
William Shakespeare of Stratford. 


by stating emphatically and this time without 
contradicting themselves that the idea of an 
Only God was given to the people by Moses. 
If there is an objection to the trustworthiness of 
this statement, it is that the priests in their re- 
writing of the Biblical Text as we have it, ascribe 
much too much to Moses. Institutions, as well 
as ritualistic rules, undoubtedly belonging to 
later times, are declared to be Mosaic laws, with 
the clear intention of enhancing their authority. 
This is certainly a reason for suspicion, yet hardly 
enough for us to use. For the deeper motive of 
such an exaggeration is clear as daylight. The 
priests, in the accounts they present, desired to 
establish a continuity between their own times 
and the Mosaic period. They attempted to deny 
just that which we have recognized to be the 
most striking feature of Jewish religious history, 
namely, that there was a gap between the 
Mosaic law -giving and the later Jewish religion 
a gap filled in at first by the worship of Jahve and 
only later slowly covered over. Their presenta- 
tion denies this sequence of events with all the 
means in its power, although its historical cor- 
rectness is beyond all doubt, since throughout the 
peculiar treatment the Biblical Text has under- 
gone there remain more than enough statements 
in proof of it. The priests' version had an aim 
similar to that of the tendency which made the 
new god Jahve the God of the Patriarchs. If we 


take into consideration this motive of the Priestly 
Code it is hard not to believe that it was really 
Moses who gave his Jews the monotheistic idea. 
We should find it the easier to give assent to this 
since we are able to say from where the idea 
came to Moses something which the Jewish 
priesthood had certainly forgotten. 

Here, someone might ask, what do we gain by 
deriving Jewish monotheism from the Egyptians ? 
The problem has thus only been put back a step; 
we know no more about the genesis of the mono- 
theistic idea. The answer is that it is not a 
question of gain, but of research. And perhaps 
we shall learn something by elucidating the real 

2. Latency Period and Tradition 

I thus believe that the idea of an Only God, as 
well as the emphasis laid on ethical demands in 
the name of that God and the rejection of all 
magic ceremonial, were indeed Mosaic doctrines, 
which at first found no hearing but came into 
their own after a long space of time and finally 
prevailed. How is such a delayed effect to be 
explained and where do we meet with similar 
phenomena ? 

Our next reflection tells us that they are often 
met with in very different spheres and that they 
probably come about in various ways which are 


more or less easy to understand. Let us take for 
an example the fate of any new scientific theory, 
for instance, the Darwinian doctrine of evolution. 
At first it meets with hostile rejection and is 
violently debated for decades; it takes only one 
generation, however, before it is recognized as 
a great step towards truth. Darwin himself was 
accorded the honour of burial in Westminster 
Abbey. Such a case provides no enigma. The 
new truth had awakened affective resistances. 
These could be sustained by arguments that 
opposed the evidence in support of the unpleasant 
doctrine. The contest of opinions lasted a certain 
time. From the very beginning there were both 
adherents and opponents, but the number as 
well as the importance of the former steadily 
increased until at last they gained the upper 
hand. During the whole time of the conflict no 
one forgot what was the matter at issue. We are 
hardly surprised to find that the whole process 
took a considerable time; probably we do not 
adequately appreciate the fact that we have here 
to do with a manifestation of mass psychology. 
There is no difficulty in finding a full analogy to 
it in the mental life of an individual. In such a 
case a person would hear of something new which, 
on the ground of certain evidence, he is asked to 
accept as true; yet it contradicts many of his 
wishes and offends some of his highly treasured 
convictions. He will then hesitate, look for 


arguments to cast doubt on the new material, 
and so will struggle for a while until at last he 
admits it himself: " all this is true after all, 
although I find it hard to accept and it is painful 
to have to believe in it." All we learn from this 
process is that it needs time for the intellectual 
work of the Ego to overcome objections that are 
invested by strong feelings. This case, however, 
is not very similar to the one we are trying to 

The next example we turn to seems to have 
still less in common with our problem. It may 
happen that someone gets away from, apparently 
unharmed, the spot where he has suffered a 
shocking accident, for instance a train collision. 
In the course of the following weeks, however, 
he develops a series of grave psychical and motor 
symptoms, which one can ascribe only to his 
shock or whatever else happened at the time of 
the accident. He has developed a " traumatic 
neurosis. 55 This appears quite incomprehensible 
and is therefore a novel fact. The time that 
elapsed between the accident and the first appear- 
ance of the symptoms is called the " incubation 
period," a transparent allusion to the pathology 
of infectious disease. As an afterthought we 
observe that in spite of the fundamental differ- 
ence in the two cases, the problem of the trau- 
matic neurosis and that of Jewish Monotheism 
there is a correspondence in one point. It is 


the feature which one might term latency. There 
are the best grounds for thinking that in the 
history of the Jewish religion there is a long 
period after the breaking away from the Moses 
religion during which no trace is to be found 
of the monotheistic idea, the condemnation of 
ceremonial and the emphasis on the ethical side. 
Thus we are prepared for the possibility that the 
solution of our problem is to be sought in a 
special psychological situation. 

I have more than once traced the events in 
Qades when the two components of the later 
Jewish people combined in the acceptance of a 
new religion. With those who had been in 
Egypt the memory of the Exodus and of the 
figure of Moses was still so strong and vivid that 
it insisted on being incorporated into any account 
of their early history. There might have been 
among them grandsons of persons who themselves 
had known Moses, and some of them still felt 
themselves to be Egyptians and bore Egyptian 
names. They had good reasons, however, for 
" repressing " the memory of the fate that had 
befallen their leader and law-giver. For the 
other component of the tribe the leading motive 
was to glorify the new God and deny his foreign - 
ness. Both parties were equally concerned to 
deny that there had been an earlier religion and 
especially what it contained. This is how the 
first compromise came about, which probably 


was soon codified in writing; the people from 
Egypt had brought with them the art of writing 
and the fondness for writing history. A long 
time was to elapse, however, before historians 
came to develop an ideal of objective truth. At 
first they shaped their accounts according to 
their needs and tendencies of the moment, with 
an easy conscience, as if they had not yet under- 
stood what falsification signified. In consequence, 
a difference began to develop between the 
written version and the oral report, i.e. the 
tradition, of the same subject-matter. What has 
been deleted or altered in the written version 
might quite well have been preserved uninjured 
in the tradition. Tradition was the complement 
and at the same time the contradiction of the 
written history. It was less subject to distorting 
influences perhaps in part entirely free of them 
and therefore might be more truthful than the 
account set down in writing. Its trustworthiness, 
however, was impaired by being vaguer and more 
fluid than the written text, being exposed to many 
changes and distortions as it was passed on from 
one generation to the other by word of mouth. 
Such a tradition may have different outcomes. 
The most likely event would be for it to be 
vanquished by the written version, ousted by it, 
until it grows more and more shadowy and at last 
is forgotten. Another fate might be that the 
tradition itself ends by becoming a written 


version. There are other possibilities which will 
be mentioned later. 

The phenomenon of the latency period in the 
history of the Jewish religion may find its explana- 
tion in this : the facts which the so-called official 
written history purposely tried to suppress were 
in reality never lost. The knowledge of them 
survived in traditions which were kept alive 
among the people. According to E. Sellin, there 
even existed a tradition concerning the end of 
Moses which contradicted outright the official 
account and came far nearer to the truth. The 
same thing, we may suppose, happened with 
other beliefs that had apparently found an end 
at the same time as Moses, doctrines of the 
Mosaic religion that had been unacceptable to 
the majority of Moses 5 contemporaries. 

Here we meet with a remarkable fact. It is 
that these traditions instead of growing weaker 
as time went on grew more and more powerful 
in the course of centuries, found their way into 
the later codifications of the official accounts, and 
at last proved themselves strong enough decisively 
to influence the thought and activity of the 
people. What the conditions were that made 
such a development possible seems, however, far 
from evident. 

This fact is indeed strange, so much so that 
we feel justified in examining it afresh. Within 
it our problem lies. The Jewish people had 


abandoned the Aton religion which Moses had 
given them and had turned to the worship of 
another god who differed little from the Baalim 
of the neighbouring tribes. All the efforts of 
later distorting influences failed to hide this 
humiliating fact. Yet the religion of Moses did 
not disappear without leaving any trace; a kind 
of memory of it had survived, a tradition perhaps 
obscured and distorted. It was this tradition of 
a great past that continued to. work in the back- 
ground, until it slowly gained more and more 
power over the mind of the people and at last 
succeeded in transforming the God Jahve into 
the Mosaic God and in waking to a new life the 
religion Moses had instituted centuries ago and 
which had later been forsaken. That a dormant 
tradition should exert such a powerful influence 
on the spiritual life of a people is not a familiar 
conception. There we find ourselves in a domain 
of mass psychology where we do not feel at home. 
We must look around for analogies, for facts of 
a similar nature even if in other disciplines. We 
shall find them, I am sure. 

When the time was ripening for a return of the 
religion of Moses, the Greek people possessed an 
exceptionally rich treasure of legends and myths 
of heroes. It is believed that the ninth or eighth 
century B.C. saw the creation of the Homeric 
epics which derived their material from this 
complex of myths. With our psychological 



knowledge of to-day we could long before 
Schliemann and Evans have put the question: 
whence did the Greeks obtain all this material 
of myths and legends which Homer and the great 
Attic dramatists transformed into immortal works 
of art ? The answer would have had to be : this 
people probably passed in its early history through 
a period of outward splendour and highly 
developed culture which ended in catastrophe 
as, indeed, history tells and of which a faint 
tradition lived on in these legends. Archaeo- 
logical research of our days has confirmed this 
suggestion, which if made earlier would surely 
have been considered too bold. It has discovered 
the evidence of the grandiose Minoan -Mycenaean 
culture which had probably already come to 
an end on the Greek mainland by 1250 B.C. 
The Greek historians of a later period hardly 
ever refer to it. There is the remark that there 
was a time when the Cretans ruled the sea, a 
mention of the name of King Minos and his 
palace, and of the labyrinth; but that is all. 
Nothing remained of that great time but the 
traditions seized upon by the great writers. 

Other peoples also possess such folk-epics, for 
example, the Indians, Finns and Germans. It 
is for the literary historian to investigate whether 
the same conditions as with the Greeks applied 
there as well. I think that such an investigation 
would yield a positive result. The conditions we 


have specified for the origin of folk-epics are as 
follows : there exists a period of early history that 
immediately afterwards is regarded as eventful, 
significant, grandiose and perhaps always heroic; 
yet it happened so long ago and belonged to times 
so remote that later generations receive intelli- 
gence of it only as an obscure and incomplete 
tradition. Surprise has been expressed that the 
epic as a literary form should have disappeared 
in later times. The explanation may be that the 
conditions for the production of epics no longer 
exist. The old material has been used up and so 
far as later events are concerned history has taken 
the place of tradition. The bravest heroic deeds 
of our days are no longer able to inspire an epic ; 
Alexander the Great himself had grounds for his 
complaint that he would have no Homer to 
celebrate his life. 

Remote times have a great attraction some- 
times mysteriously so for the imagination. As 
often as mankind is dissatisfied with its present 
and that happens often enough it harks back 
to the past and hopes at last to win belief in the 
never -for gotten dream of a Golden Age. 1 Prob- 
ably man still stands under the magic spell of 
his childhood, which a not unbiassed memory 

1 Such a situation forms the basis of Macaulay's " Lays of 
Ancient Rome." He assumes the part of a minstrel who, sadly 
disappointed with the violent contests of the political parties of 
his time, contrasts them with the unity and patriotism of their 


presents to him as a time of unalloyed bliss. 
Incomplete and dim memories of the*past, which 
we call tradition, are a great incentive to the 
artist, for he is free to fill in the gaps in the 
memories according to the behests of his imagina- 
tion and to form after his own purpose the image 
of the time he has undertaken to reproduce. 
One might almost say that the more shadowy 
tradition has become the more meet is it for the 
poet's use. The value tradition has for poetry, 
therefore, need not surprise us, and the analogy 
we have found of the dependence of epic poetry 
on precise conditions will make us more inclined 
to accept the strange suggestion that with the 
Jews it was the tradition of Moses which turned 
the Jahve worship in the direction of the old 
Mosaic religion. The two cases, however, are 
very different in other respects. In the one the 
result is poetry, in the other a religion, and we 
have assumed that the latter under the stimulus 
of a tradition was reproduced with a faithfulness 
for which, of course, the epic cannot provide a 
parallel. Enough remains, therefore, of our 
problem to encourage a search for better analogies. 

3. The Analogy 

The only really satisfactory analogy to the 
remarkable process which we have recognized in 
the history of Jewish religion is to be found in a 


domain apparently remote from our problem. It 
is, however, very complete, approximating to 
identity. Here again we find the phenomenon 
of latency, the appearance of inexplicable 
manifestations which call for an explanation, 
and the strict condition of an early, and subse- 
quently forgotten, experience. Here too we find 
the characteristic of compulsiveness, which 
overpowering logical thinking strongly engages 
the psychical life; it is a trait which was not 
concerned in the genesis of the epic. 

This analogy is met with in psychopathology, 
in the genesis of human neurosis : that is to say, 
in a discipline belonging to individual psychology, 
whereas religious phenomena must of course be 
regarded as a part of mass psychology. We shall 
see that this analogy is not so startling as it 
appears at first sight; indeed, it is rather in the 
nature of an axiom. 

The impressions we experienced at an early age 
and forgot later, to which I have ascribed such 
great importance for the aetiology of the neuroses, 
are called traumata. It may remain an open 
question whether the aetiology of the neuroses 
should in general be regarded as a traumatic one. 
The obvious objection is that a trauma is not 
always evident in the early history of the neurotic 
individual. Often we must be content to say that 
there is nothing else but an unusual reaction 
to experiences and demands that apply to all 


individuals; many people deal with them in 
another way which we may term normal. Where 
we can find no other explanation than an heredit- 
ary and constitutional disposition we are naturally 
tempted to say that the neurosis was not suddenly 
acquired but slowly developed. 

In this connection, however, two points stand 
out. The first is that the genesis of the neurosis 
always goes back to very early impressions in 
childhood. 1 The second is this: it is correct to 
say that there are cases which we single out as 
" traumatic " ones because the effects unmistak- 
ably go back to one or more strong impressions 
of this early period. They failed to be disposed 
of normally, so that one feels inclined to say : if 
this or that had not happened, there would have 
been no neurosis. It would be sufficient for our 
purposes even if we had to limit the analogy in 
question to these traumatic cases. Yet the gap 
between the two groups does not seem unbridge- 
able. It is quite possible to combine both aetio- 
logical conditions in one conception ; all depends 
on what is defined as traumatic. If we may 
assume that an experience acquires its traumatic 
character only in consequence of a quantitative 
element that is to say, that if the experience 
evokes unusual pathological reactions the fault 

1 That is why it is nonsensical to maintain that psycho-analysis 
is practised if these early periods of life are excluded from one's 
investigation; yet this claim has been made in many quarters. 


lies in its having made too many demands on the 
personality then we can formulate the con- 
clusion that with one constitution something 
produces a trauma whereas with another it does 
not. We then have the conception of a sliding 
scale, a so-called complemental series, where two 
factors converge to complete the aetiology; a 
minus in one factor is compensated by a plus in 
the other. Generally the two factors work together 
and only at either end of the series can we speak 
of a simple motivation. In consequence of this 
reasoning we can leave out of account the 
difference between traumatic and non -traumatic 
aetiology as being unimportant for our analogy. 

Despite some risk of repetition, it may be 
useful to group together the facts relating to the 
important analogy in question. They are as 
follows. Our researches have shown that what 
we call the phenomena or symptoms of a neurosis 
are the consequences of certain experiences and 
impressions which, for this very reason, we recog- 
nize to be aetiological traumata. We wish to 
ascertain, even if only in a rough schematic way, 
the characteristics common to these experiences 
and to neurotic symptoms. 

Let us first consider the former. All these 
traumata belong to early childhood, the period 
up to about five years. Impressions during the 
time when the child begins to speak are found to 
be especially interesting. The period between two 


and four years is the most important. How soon 
after birth this sensitiveness to traumata begins 
we are not able to state with any degree of 

The experiences in question are as a rule 
entirely forgotten and remain inaccessible to 
memory. They belong to the period of infantile 
amnesia which is often interrupted by isolated 
fragmentary memories, the so-called " screen - 

memories. 55 

They concern impressions of a sexual and 
aggressive nature and also early injuries to the 
self (injuries to narcissism) . We should add that 
children at that early age do not yet distinguish 
between sexual and purely aggressive actions so 
clearly as they do later on; (the " sadistic " mis- 
understanding of the sexual act belongs to this 
context). It is of course very striking that the 
sexual factor should predominate and theory 
must take this into account. 

These three points early happenings within 
the first five years of life, the forgetting, and the 
characteristic of sexuality and aggressivity 
belong closely together. The traumata are either 
bodily experiences or perceptions, especially those 
heard or seen; that is to say, they are either 
experiences or impressions. What connects the 
three points is established theoretically, by 
analytic work; this alone can yield a knowledge 
of the forgotten experiences, or to put it more 


concretely, though more incorrectly is able to 
bring those forgotten experiences back to memory. 
The theory says that, contrary to popular 
opinion, human sexual life or what later cor- 
responds with it shows an early blossoming 
which comes to an end at about the age of five. 
Then follows the so-called latency period 
lasting up to puberty during which there is no 
further sexual development; on the contrary, 
much that had been achieved undergoes a retro- 
gression. The theory is confirmed by anatomical 
study of the growth of the internal genitalia; 
it suggests that man is derived from a species of 
animal that was sexually mature at five years, 
and arouses the suspicion that the postponement, 
and the beginning twice over, of sexual life has 
much to do with the transition to humanity. 
Man seems to be the only animal with a latency 
period and delayed sexuality. Investigations of 
primates, which so far as I know have not been 
made, would furnish an invaluable test for this 
theory. It must be significant psychologically 
that the period of infantile amnesia coincides 
with this early blossoming of sexuality. Perhaps 
this state of affairs is a necessary condition for the 
existence of neurosis, which seems to be a human 
privilege, and which in this light appears to be 
a survival from primaeval times like certain 
parts of our body. 
What features are common to all neurotic 


symptoms ? Here we may note two important 
points. The effects of the trauma are twofold, 
positive and negative. The former are endeavours 
to revive the trauma, to remember the forgotten 
experience, or, better still, to make it real 
to live once more through a repetition of it; if 
it was an early affective relationship it is revived 
iij an analogous connection with another person. 
These endeavours are summed up in the terms 
" fixation to the trauma " and " repetition - 
compulsion. 53 The effects can be incorporated 
into the so-called normal Ego and in the form of 
constant tendencies lend to it immutable charac- 
ter traits, although or rather because their 
real cause, their historical origin, has been for- 
gotten. Thus a man who has spent his childhood 
in an excessive and since forgotten " mother - 
fixation " may all his life seek for a woman on 
whom he can be dependent, who will feed and 
keep him. A girl who was seduced in early 
childhood may orient her later sexual life towards 
provoking such assaults over and over again. It 
will thus be seen that to understand the problems 
of neurosis enables us to penetrate into the secrets 
of character formation in general. 

The negative reactions pursue the opposite 
aim; here nothing is to be remembered or 
repeated of the forgotten traumata. They may be 
grouped together as defensive reactions. They 
express themselves in avoiding issues, a tendency 


which may culminate in an inhibition or phobia. 
These negative reactions also contribute con- 
siderably to the formation of character. Actually 
they represent fixations on the trauma no less 
than do the positive reactions, but they follow 
the opposite tendency. The symptoms of the 
neurosis proper constitute a compromise to 
which both the positive and negative effects of 
the trauma contribute; sometimes one com- 
ponent, sometimes the other, predominates. 
These opposite reactions create conflicts which 
the subject cannot as a rule resolve. 

The second point is this. All these phenomena, 
the symptoms as well as the restrictions of per- 
sonality and the lasting changes in character, 
display the characteristic of compulsiveness; that 
is to say, they possess great psychical intensity, 
they show a far-reaching independence of psy- 
chical processes that are adapted to the demands 
of the real world and obey the laws of logical 
thinking. They are not influenced by outer 
reality or not normally so ; they take no notice of 
real things, or the mental equivalents of these, so 
that they can easily come into active opposition 
to either. They are as a state within the state, 
an inaccessible party, useless for the common 
weal; yet they can succeed in overcoming the 
other, the so-called normal, component and 
in forcing it into their service. If this happens 
then the sovereignty of an inner psychical reality 


has been established over the reality of the outer 
world ;Tthe way to insanity is open. Even if it 
does not come to this, the practical importance 
of the conflict is immeasurable. The inhibitions, 
or even inability to deal with life, of people 
dominated by neurosis are a very important 
factor in human society. The neurosis may be 
regarded as a direct expression of a " fixation " 
to an early period of their past. 

And how about latency, a question especially 
interesting in regard to our analogy ? A trauma 
in childhood can be immediately followed by a 
neurosis during childhood; this constitutes an 
effort of defence accompanied by the formation 
of symptoms. The neurosis may last a long time 
and cause striking disturbances, or it may remain 
latent and be overlooked. As a rule, defence 
obtains the upper hand in such a neurosis ; in any 
event changes of the personality remain like 
scars. A childhood neurosis seldom continues 
without an interval into the neurosis of the adult. 
Much more often it is succeeded by a time of 
undisturbed development, a process made possible 
or facilitated by the physiological latency. Only 
later does the change appear with which the 
neurosis becomes definitely manifest as a delayed 
effect of the trauma. This happens either at 
puberty or somewhat later. In the first case it 
comes about because the instincts strengthened by 
physical maturity can again take up the battle 


in which at first they were defeated. In the second 
case the neurosis becomes manifest later because 
the reactions and changes of the personality 
brought about by the defence mechanisms prove 
to be an obstacle for the solving of new problems 
of life, so that grave conflicts arise between the 
demands of the outer world and those of the Ego, 
which strives to preserve the organization it had 
painfully developed in its defensive struggle. The 
phenomenon of a latency in the neurosis between 
the first reactions to the trauma and the later 
appearance of the illness must be recognized as 
typical. The illness may also be regarded as an 
attempt at cure, an endeavour to reconcile the 
divided Ego divided by the trauma with the 
rest and to unite it into a strong whole that will 
be fit to cope with the outer world. Yet such an 
effort is rarely successful unless analytic help is 
sought, and even then not always. Often it ends 
in entirely destroying and breaking up the Ego or 
in the Ego being overpowered by the portion that 
was early split off, and has since been dominated, 
by the trauma. 

To convince the reader of the truth of our 
statements the exhaustive communication of 
several neurotic life histories would be necessary. 
The difficulty of the subject, however, would lead 
to great discursiveness and entirely destroy the 
character of this essay. It would become a 
treatise on the neuroses and even then would 


enforce conviction only on that minority of 
people who have devoted their life's work to the 
study and practice of psycho-analysis. Since I am 
speaking here to a larger audience I can only 
ask the reader to lend a tentative credence to the 
abbreviated exposition which he has just read; 
I, on my part, agree that he need accept the 
deductions which I propose to lay before him 
only if the theories on which they are based turn 
out to be correct. 

Nevertheless I can try to relate one case 
which will show clearly many of the peculiari- 
ties of neurosis that I have mentioned above. 
One case cannot, of course, display everything; 
so we shall not be disappointed if its content seems 
far away from the analogy we are seeking. 

A little boy who, as so often happens in the 
families of the petite bourgeoisie, shared his parents 5 
bedroom had ample, and even regular, oppor- 
tunity for observing sexual intercourse at an age 
before he was able to talk. He saw much and 
heard still more. In his later neurosis, which 
broke out immediately after the time of his first 
seminal emission, disturbed sleep was the earliest 
and most trying symptom. He became extra- 
ordinarily sensitive to nocturnal noises and, if 
once awakened, could not get to sleep again. 
This disturbance was a true compromise symp- 
tom: on the one hand the expression of his 
defence against his nocturnal observations, on 


the other hand the endeavour to re-establish the 
wakefulness which had enabled him to listen to 
those experiences. 

Stirred early to aggressive virility by these 
observations the boy began to excite his penis by 
touch and to make sexual advances towards his 
mother, putting himself thus in his father's place 
through identification with him. This went on 
until at last his mother forbade him to touch his 
penis and threatened to tell his father, who would 
take the offending organ away. This threat of 
castration had a very strong traumatic effect on 
the boy. He relinquished his sexual activity and 
his character underwent a change. Instead of 
identifying himself with his father he began to be 
afraid of him, adopted a passive attitude towards 
him and by means of occasional disobedience 
provoked his father to punish him physically. 
This corporal punishment had sexual significance 
for him and in that way he could identify 
himself with the ill-treated mother. He began 
to cling more and more closely to his mother as 
if he could not bear to be without her love, even 
for a moment, since this constituted a protection 
against the danger of castration from his father. 
The latency period was spent in this modification 
of the (Edipus complex; it remained free from 
obvious disturbances. He became a model child 
and was successful in school. 

So far we have pursued the immediate effect 


of the trauma and confirmed the existence of a 
latency period. 

The appearance of puberty brought with it the 
manifest neurosis and disclosed its second main 
symptom, sexual impotency. He had lost all 
sensitiveness in his penis, never tried to touch it 
and never dared to approach a woman sexually. 
His sexual activities remained restricted to 
psychical onanism with sadistic -masochistic 
phantasies in which it was easy to recognize the 
consequence of those early observations of 
parental coitus. The thrust of increased virility 
that puberty brought with it turned to ferocious 
hatred of his father and opposition to him. This 
extreme negative relation to his father, which 
went as far as injuring his own interests, was the 
reason for his failure in life and his conflicts with 
the outer world. He could not allow himself to 
be successful in his profession, because his father 
had forced him to adopt it. He made no friends 
and was always on bad terms with his superiors. 

Burdened with these symptoms and incapacities 
he found at last a wife after his father's death. 
Then the core of his character appeared, traits 
which made him very difficult to live with. He 
developed an absolutely egotistical, despotic and 
brutal personality; it was obviously necessary to 
him to bully and oppress other people. He was 
the exact copy of his father, after the image of 
him he had formed in his memory; that is to say, 


he revived the father-identification which as a 
child he had adopted for sexual motives. In this 
part of the neurosis we recognize the return of 
the repressed, which together with the immedi- 
ate effects of the trauma and the phenomenon of 
latency we have described as among the essential 
symptoms of a neurosis. 

4. Application 

Early trauma Defence Latency Outbreak 
of the Neurosis Partial return of the repressed 
material: this was the formula we drew up for 
the development of a neurosis. Now I will 
invite the reader to take a step forward and 
assume that in the history of the human species 
something happened similar to the events in the 
life of the individual. That is to say, mankind 
as a whole also passed through conflicts of a 
sexual -aggressive nature, which left permanent 
traces but which were for the most part warded 
off and forgotten; later, after a long period of 
latency, they came to life again and created 
phenomena similar in structure and tendency to 
neurotic symptoms. 

I have, I believe, divined these processes and 
wish to show that their consequences, which 
bear a strong resemblance to neurotic symptoms, 
are the phenomena of religion. Since it can no 
longer be doubted after the discovery of evolution 


that mankind had a pre -history, and since this 
history is unknown (that is to say, forgotten), 
such a conclusion has almost the significance of 
an axiom. If we should learn that the effective 
and forgotten traumata relate, here as well as 
there, to life in the human family, we should 
greet this information as a highly welcome and 
unforeseen gift which could not have been 
anticipated from the foregoing discussion. 

I have already upheld this thesis a quarter of a 
century ago, in my book Totem and Taboo (1912), 
and need only repeat what I said there. The 
argument started from some remarks by Charles 
Darwin and embraced a suggestion of Atkinson's. 
It says that in primaeval times men lived in small 
hordes, each under the domination of a strong 
male. When this was is not known; no point of 
contact with geological data has been established. 
It is likely that mankind was not very far advanced 
in the art of speech. An essential part of the 
argument is that all primaeval men, including, 
therefore, all our ancestors, underwent the fate 
I shall now describe. 

The story is told in a very condensed way, as 
if what in reality took centuries to achieve, and 
during that long time was repeated innumerably, 
had only happened once. The strong male was 
the master and father of the whole horde: un- 
limited in his power, which he used brutally. All 
females were his property, the wives and daughters 


in his own horde as well as perhaps also those 
robbed from other hordes. The fate of the sons 
was a hard one; if they excited the father's 
jealousy they were killed or castrated or driven 
out. They were forced to live in small com- 
munities and to provide themselves with wives 
by robbing them from others. Then one or the 
other son might succeed in attaining a situation 
similar to that of the father in the original horde. 
One favoured position came about in a natural 
way: it was that of the youngest son who, 
protected by his mother's love, could profit by 
his father's advancing years and replace him 
after his death. An echo of the expulsion of the 
eldest son, as well as of the favoured position of 
the youngest, seems to linger in many myths and 
fairy tales. 

The next decisive step towards changing this 
first kind of " social " organization lies in the 
following suggestion. The brothers who had 
been driven out and lived together in a com- 
munity clubbed together, overcame the father 
and according to the custom of those times 
all partook of his body. This cannibalism need 
not shock us; it survived into far later times. 
The essential point is, however, that we attribute 
to those primaeval people the same feelings and 
emotions that we have elucidated in the primitives 
of our own times, our children, by psycho- 
analytic research. That is to say : they not merely 


hated and feared their father, but also honoured 
him as an example to follow; in fact each son 
wanted to place himself in his father's position. 
The cannibalistic act thus becomes comprehen- 
sible as an attempt to assure one's identification 
with the father by incorporating a part of him. 

It is a reasonable surmise that after the killing 
of the father a time followed when the brothers 
quarrelled among themselves for the succession, 
which each of them wanted to obtain for himself 
alone. They came to see that these fights were 
as dangerous as they were futile. This hard-won 
understanding as well as the memory of the 
deed of liberation they had achieved together 
and the attachment that had grown up among 
them during the time of their exile led at last 
to a union among them, a sort of social contract. 
Thus there came into being the first form of a 
social organization accompanied by a renunciation 
sf instinctual gratification; recognition of mutual 
Dbligations; institutions declared sacred, which 
:ould not be broken in short the beginnings of 
morality and law. Each renounced the ideal 
3f gaining for himself the position of father, of 
possessing his mother or sister. With this the 
taboo of incest and the law of exogamy came into 
being. A good part of the power which had 
become vacant through the father's death passed 
to the women; the time of the matriarchate 
followed. The memory of the father lived on 


during this time of the " brother horde." A 
strong animal, which perhaps at first was also 
dreaded, was found as a substitute. Such a 
choice may seem very strange to us, but the gulf 
which man created later between himself and the 
animals did not exist for primitive man. Nor does 
it with our children, whose animal phobias we 
have been able to explain as dread of the father. 
The relationship to the totem animal retained 
the original ambivalency of feeling towards 
the father. The totem was, on the one hand, the 
corporeal ancestor and protecting spirit of the 
clan; he was to be revered and protected. On 
the other hand, a festival was instituted on which 
day the same fate was meted out to him as the 
primaeval father had encountered. He was killed 
and eaten by all the brothers together. (The 
Totem feast, according to Robertson Smith.) 
This great day was in reality a feast of triumph to 
celebrate the victory of the united sons over the 

Where, in this connection, does religion come 
in ? Totemism, with its worship of a father substi- 
tute, the ambivalency towards the father which 
is evidenced by the totem feast, the institution 
of remembrance festivals and of laws the breaking 
of which is punished by death this totemism, 
I conclude, may be regarded as the earliest 
appearance of religion in the history of mankind, 
and it illustrates the close connection existing 


from the very beginning of time between social 
institutions and moral obligations. The further 
development of religion can be treated here only 
in a very summary fashion. Without a doubt it 
proceeded parallel to the cultural development 
of mankind and the changes in the structure of 
human social institutions. 

The next step forward from totemism is the 
humanizing of the worshipped being. Human 
gods, whose origin from the totem is not veiled, 
take the place previously filled by animals. 
Either the god is still represented as an animal or 
at least he bears the countenance of an animal; 
the totem may become the inseparable com- 
panion of the god, or, again, the myth makes the 
god vanquish just that animal which was nothing 
but his predecessor. At one period it is hard to 
say when great mother-deities appeared, prob- 
ably before the male gods, and they were wor- 
shipped beside the latter for a long time to come. 
During that time a great social revolution had 
taken place. Matriarchy was followed by a 
restitution of the patriarchal order. The new 
fathers, it is true, never succeeded to the omni- 
potence of the primaeval father. There were too 
many of them and they lived in larger com- 
munities than the original horde had been; they 
had to get on with one another and were restricted 
by social institutions. Probably the mother 
deities were developed when the matriarchy was 


being limited, in order to compensate the 
dethroned mothers. The male gods appear at 
first as sons by the side of the great mothers; only 
later do they clearly assume the features of the 
father. These male gods of polytheism mirror the 
conditions of patriarchal times. They are numer- 
ous, they have to share their authority, and 
occasionally they obey a higher god. The next 
step, however, leads us to the topic that interests 
us here : the return of the one and only father 
deity whose power is unlimited. 

I must admit that this historical survey leaves 
many a gap and in many points needs further 
confirmation. Yet whoever declares our recon- 
struction of primaeval history to be fantastic 
greatly underestimates the richness and the force 
of the evidence that has gone to make up this 
reconstruction. Large portions of the past, which 
are here woven into a whole, are historically 
proven or even show their traces to this day, such 
as matriarchal right, totemism and male com- 
munities. Others have survived in remarkable 
replicas. Thus more than one author has been 
struck by the close resemblance between the rite 
of Christian Communion where the believer 
symbolically incorporates the blood and flesh of 
his God and the Totem feast, whose inner 
meaning it reproduces. Numerous survivals of 
our forgotten early history are preserved in the 
legends and fairy tales of the peoples, and 


analytic study of the mental life of the child has 
yielded an unexpectedly rich return by filling up 
gaps in our knowledge of primaeval times. As a 
contribution towards an understanding of the 
highly important relation between father and 
son I need only quote the animal phobias, the 
fear of being eaten by the father (which seems so 
strange to the grown mind), and the enormous 
intensity of the castration complex. There is 
nothing in our reconstruction that is invented, 
nothing that is not based on good grounds. 

Let us suppose that the presentation here given 
of primaeval history is on the whole credible. 
Then two elements can be recognized in religious 
rites and doctrines: on the one hand, fixations 
on the old family history and survivals of this; 
on the other hand, reproductions of the past and 
a return long after of what had been forgotten. 
It is the latter element that has until now been 
overlooked and therefore not understood. It 
will therefore be illustrated here by at least one 
impressive example. 

It is specially worthy of note that every memory 
returning from the forgotten past does so with 
great force, produces an incomparably strong 
influence on the mass of mankind and puts 
forward an irresistible claim to be believed, 
against which all logical objections remain 
powerless very much like the credo quia 
absurdum. This strange characteristic can only be 


understood by comparison with the delusions in a 
psychotic case. It has long been recognized that 
delusions contain a piece of forgotten truth, 
which had at its return to put up with being 
distorted and misunderstood, and that the com- 
pulsive conviction appertaining to the delusion 
emanates from this core of truth and spreads to 
the errors that enshroud it. Such a kernel of 
truth which we miglit call historical truth must 
also be conceded to the doctrines of the various 
religions. They are, it is true, imbued with the 
character of psychotic symptoms, but as mass 
phenomena they have escaped the curse of 

No other part of religious history has become 
so abundantly clear as the establishment of mono- 
theism among the Jewish people and its continua- 
tion into Christianity if we omit the develop- 
ment from the animal totem to the human god 
with his regular (animal) companion, a develop- 
ment which can be traced without a gap and 
readily understood. (Each of the four Christian 
evangelists, by the way, still has his favourite 
animal.) If we admit for the moment that the 
rule of Pharaoh's empire was the external reason 
for the appearance of the monotheistic idea, we 
see that this idea uprooted from its soil and 
transplanted to another people after a long 
latency period takes hold of this people, is 
treasured by them as their most precious possession 


and for its part keeps this people alive by bestow- 
ing on them the pride of being the chosen people. 
It is the religion of the primaeval father and the 
hope of reward, distinction and finally world 
sovereignty, is bound up with it. The last-named 
wish -phantasy relinquished long ago by the 
Jewish people still survives among their enemies 
in their belief in the conspiracy of the " Elders 
of Zion." We shall consider in a later chapter 
how the special peculiarities of a monotheistic 
religion borrowed from Egypt must have worked 
on the Jewish people, how it formed their 
character for good through the disdaining of 
magic and mysticism and encouraging them to 
progress in spirituality and sublimations. The 
people, happy in their conviction of possessing 
truth, overcome by the consciousness of being 
the chosen, came to value highly all intellectual 
and ethical achievements. I shall also show how 
their sad fate, and the disappointments reality had 
in store for them, was able to strengthen all these 
tendencies. At present, however, we shall follow 
their historical development in another direction. 
The restoration to the primaeval father of his 
historical rights marked a great progress, but 
this could not be the end. The other parts of 
the prehistoric tragedy also clamoured for recog- 
nition. How this process was set into motion it 
is not easy to say. It seems that a growing feeling 
of guiltiness had seized the Jewish people and 


perhaps the whole of civilization of that time- 
as a precursor of the return of the repressed 
material. This went on until a member of the 
Jewish people, in the guise of a political -religious 
agitator, founded a doctrine which together with 
another one, the Christian religion separated 
from the Jewish one. Paul, a Roman Jew from 
Tarsus, seized upon this feeling of guilt and 
correctly traced it back to its primaeval source. 
This he called original sin ; it was a crime against 
God that could be expiated only through death. 
Death had come into the world through original 
sin. In reality this crime, deserving of death, 
had been the murder of the Father who later was 
deified. The murderous deed itself, however, was 
not remembered ; in its place stood the phantasy 
of expiation and that is why this phantasy could 
be welcomed in the form of a gospel of salvation 
(Evangel). A Son of God, innocent himself, 
had sacrificed himself and had thereby taken 
over the guilt of the world. It had to be a Son, 
for the sin had been murder of the Father. 
Probably traditions from Oriental and Greek 
mysteries had exerted their influence on the 
shaping of this phantasy of salvation. The 
essence of it seems to be Paul's own contribution. 
He was a man with a gift for religion, in the truest 
sense of the phrase. Dark traces of the past lay 
in his soul, ready to break through into the 
regions of consciousness. 


That the Redeemer sacrificed himself as an 
innocent man was an obviously tendentious 
distortion, difficult to reconcile with logical 
thinking. How could a man who was innocent 
assume the guilt of the murderer by allowing 
himself to be killed'? In historical reality there 
was no such contradiction. The " redeemer " 
could be no one else but he who was most guilty, 
the leader of the brother horde who had over- 
powered' the Father. Whether there had been 
such a chief rebel and leader must in my 
opinion remain uncertain. It is quite possible, 
but we must also consider that each member of 
the brother horde certainly had the wish to do 
the deed by himself and thus to create for himself 
a unique position as a substitute for the identifica- 
tion with the father which he had to give up when 
he was submerged in the community. If there 
was no such leader, then Christ was the heir of 
an unfulfilled wish -phantasy; if there was such 
a leader, then Christ was his successor and 
his reincarnation. It is unimportant, however, 
whether we have here a phantasy or the return 
of a forgotten reality ; in any case, here lies the 
origin of the conception of the hero he who 
rebels against the father and kills him in some 
guise or other. 1 Here we also find the real source 

1 Ernest Jones calls my attention to the probability that the 
God Mithra, who slays the Bull, represented this leader, the one 
who simply gloried in his deed. It is well known how long the 
worship of Mithra disputed the final victory with Christianity. 


of the " tragic guilt " of the hero in drama a 
guilt hard to demonstrate otherwise. We can 
scarcely doubt that in Greek tragedy the hero and 
the chorus represent this same rebel hero and the 
brother horde, and it cannot be without signifi- 
cance that in the Middle Ages the theatre began 
afresh with the story of the Passion. 

I have already mentioned that the Christian 
ceremony of Holy Communion, in which the 
believer incorporates the flesh and blood of the 
Redeemer, repeats the content of the old Totem 
feast; it does so, it is true, only in its tender and 
adoring sense, not in its aggressive sense. The 
ambivalency dominating the father -son relation- 
ship, however, shows clearly in the final result 
of the religious innovation. Meant to propitiate 
the father deity, it ends by his being dethroned 
and set aside. The Mosaic religion had been a 
Father religion; Christianity became a Son 
religion. The old God, the Father, took second 
place; Christ, the Son, stood in His stead, just 
as in those dark times every son had longed to do. 
Paul, by developing the Jewish religion further, 
became its destroyer. His success was certainly 
mainly due to the fact that through the idea of 
salvation he laid the ghost of the feeling of guilt. 
It was also due to his giving up the idea of the 
chosen people and its visible sign circum- 
cision. That is how the new religion could 
become all-embracing, universal. Although this 


step might have been determined by Paul's 
revengefulness on account of the opposition 
which his innovation found among the Jews, 
nevertheless one characteristic of the old Aton 
religion (universality) was reinstated; a restric- 
tion had been abolished which it had acquired 
while passing on to a new carrier, the Jewish 

In certain respects the new religion was a 
cultural regression as compared with the older 
Jewish religion; this happens regularly when a 
new mass of people of a lower cultural level 
effects an invasion or is admitted into an older 
culture. Christian religion did not keep to the 
lofty heights of spirituality to which the Jewish 
religion had soared. The former was no longer 
strictly monotheistic, took over from the sur- 
rounding peoples numerous symbolical rites, re- 
established the great Mother Goddess and found 
room for many deities of polytheism in an easily 
recognizable disguise though in subordinate 
positions. Above all it was not inaccessible as 
the Aton religion and the subsequent Mosaic 
religion had been to the penetration of super- 
stitions, magical and mystical elements which 
proved a great hindrance to the spiritual develop- 
ment of two following millenia. 

The triumph of Christianity was a renewed 
victory of the Amon priests over the God of 
Ikhnaton after an interval of a millenium and a 


half and over a larger region. And yet Christian- 
ity marked a progress in the history of religion : 
that is to say, in regard to the return of the 
repressed. From now on Jewish religion was, so 
to speak, a fossil. 

It would be worth while to understand why 
the monotheistic idea should make such a deep 
impression on just the Jewish people, and why 
they adhered to it so tenaciously. I believe 
this question can be answered. The great deed 
and misdeed of primaeval times, the murder of the 
Father, was brought home to the Jews, for fate 
decreed that they should repeat it on the person 
of Moses, an eminent father substitute. It was 
a case of acting instead of remembering, some- 
thing which often happens during analytic work 
with neurotics. They responded to the doctrine 
of Moses which should have been a stimulus to 
their memory by denying their act, did not 
progress beyond the recognition of the great 
Father and barred the passage to the point where 
later on Paul started his continuation of primaeval 
history. It can scarcely be chance that the violent 
death of another great man should become the 
starting point for the creation of a new religion 
by Paul. This was a man whom a small number 
of adherents in Judea believed to be the Son of 
God and the promised Messiah, and who later 
on took over some of the childhood history that 
had been attached to Moses. In reality, however, 


we have hardly more definite knowledge of him 
than we have of Moses. We do not know if he 
was really the great man whom the Gospels 
depict or whether it was not rather the fact and 
the circumstances of his death that were the 
decisive factor in his achieving importance. Paul, 
who became his apostle, did not himself know 

The murder of Moses by his people which 
Sellin recognized in the traces of tradition and 
which, strangely enough, the young Goethe 1 had 
assumed without any evidence has thus become 
an indispensable part of our reasoning, an impor- 
tant link between the forgotten deed of primaeval 
times and its subsequent reappearance in the 
form of Monotheistic religions, 2 It is an attractive 
suggestion that the guilt attached to the murder 
of Moses may have been the stimulus for the wish- 
phantasy of the Messiah, who was to return and 
give to his people salvation and the promised 
sovereignty over the world. If Moses was this 
first Messiah, Christ became his substitute and 
successor. Then Paul could with a certain right 
say to the peoples: " See, the Messiah has truly 
come. He was indeed murdered before your 
eyes." Then also there is some historical truth 
in the rebirth of Christ, for he was the resurrected 

1 Israel in der Wuste, Bd. VII of the Weimar Edition, S. 170. 

2 Compare in this connection the well-known exposition in 
Frazer's The Golden Bough, Part III, " The Dying God," 1911. 


Moses and the returned primaeval Father of the 
primitive horde as well only transfigured and 
as a Son in the place of his Father. 

The poor Jewish people, who with its usual 
stiff-necked obduracy continued to deny the 
murder of their " father/ 5 has dearly expiated 
this in the course of centuries. Over and over 
again they heard the reproach: you killed our 
God. And this reproach is true, if rightly 
interpreted. It says, in reference to the history of 
religion: you won't admit that you murdered 
God (the archetype of God, the primaeval Father 
and his reincarnations). Something should be 
added, namely: " It is true, we did the same 
thing, but we admitted it, and since then we have 
been purified." 

Not all accusations with which antisemitism 
pursues the descendants of the Jewish people are 
based on such good foundations. There must, of 
course, be more than one reason for a phenomenon 
of such intensity and lasting strength as the 
popular hatred of Jews. A whole series of reasons 
can be divined: some of them, which need no 
interpretation, arise from obvious considerations; 
others lie deeper and spring from secret sources, 
which one would regard as the specific motives. 
In the first group the most fallacious is the 
reproach of their being foreigners, since in many 
places nowadays under the sway of antisemitism 
the Jews were the oldest constituents of the 


population or arrived even before the present in- 
habitants. This is so, for example, in the town 
of Cologne, where Jews came with the Romans, 
before it was colonized by Germanic tribes. Other 
grounds for antisemitism are stronger, as for 
example, the circumstance that Jews mostly live 
as a minority among other peoples, since the 
feeling of solidarity of the masses in order to be 
complete has need of an animosity against an 
outside minority and the numerical weakness of 
the minority invites suppression. Two other 
peculiarities that the Jews possess, however, are 
quite unpardonable. The first is that in many 
respects they are different from their " hosts." 
Not fundamentally so, since they are not a foreign 
Asiatic race as their enemies maintain but 
mostly consist of the remnants of Mediterranean 
peoples and inherit their culture. Yet they are 
different although sometimes it is hard to define 
in what respects especially from the Nordic 
peoples, and racial intolerance finds stronger 
expression strange to say in regard to small 
differences than to fundamental ones. The second 
peculiarity has an even more pronounced effect. 
It is that they defy oppression, that even the most 
cruel persecutions have not succeeded in exter- 
minating them. On the contrary, they show a 
capacity for holding their own in practical life 
and, where they are admitted, they make valuable 
contributions to the surrounding civilization. 


The deeper motives of antisemitism have their 
roots in times long past; they come from the 
unconscious and I am quite prepared to hear 
that what I am going to say will at first appear 
incredible. I venture to assert that the jealousy 
which the Jews evoked in the other peoples by 
maintaining that they were the first-born, favour- 
ite child of God the Father has not yet been 
overcome by those others, just as if the latter had 
given credence to the assumption. Furthermore, 
among the customs through which the Jews 
marked off their aloof position, that of circum- 
cision made a disagreeable, uncanny impression 
on others. The explanation probably is that it 
reminds them of the dreaded castration idea and 
of things in their primaeval past which they would 
fain forget. Then there is lastly the most recent 
motive of the series. We must not forget that all 
the peoples who now excel in the practice of anti- 
semitism became Christians only in relatively 
recent times, sometimes forced to it by bloody 
compulsion. One might say, they all are " badly 
christened "; under the thin veneer of Christian- 
ity they have remained what their ancestors were, 
barbarically polytheistic. They have not yet 
overcome their grudge against the new religion 
which was forced on them, and they have pro- 
jected it on to the source from which Christianity 
came to them. The facts that the Gospels tell a 
story which is enacted among Jews, and in truth 


treats only of Jews, has facilitated such a projec- 
tion. The hatred for Judaism is at bottom hatred 
for Christianity, and it is not surprising that in the 
German National-Socialist revolution this close 
connection of the two monotheistic religions finds 
such clear expression in the hostile treatment of 

5. Difficulties 

Perhaps the preceding chapter has succeeded 
in establishing the analogy between neurotic 
processes and religious events and thereby in 
pointing to the unexpected origin of the latter. 
In this translation from individual into mass 
psychology two difficulties emerge, different in 
nature and importance, which we must now 
examine. The first is that we have treated here of 
only one case in the rich phenomenology of the 
religions and have not thrown any light on the 
others. The author regretfully has to admit that 
he cannot give more than one sample, that he has 
not the expert knowledge necessary to complete 
the investigation. This limited knowledge will 
allow him perhaps to add that the founding of the 
Mohammedan religion seems to him to be an 
abbreviated repetition of the Jewish one, in 
imitation of which it made its appearance. There 
is reason to believe that the Prophet originally 
intended to accept the Jewish religion in full for 


himself and his people. The regaining of the one 
great primaeval Father produced in the Arabs an 
extraordinary advance in self-confidence which 
led them to great worldly successes, but which 
it is true exhausted itself in these. Allah proved 
himself to be much more grateful to his chosen 
people than Jahve had in his time. The inner 
development of the new religion, however, soon 
came to a standstill, perhaps because it lacked 
the profundity which in the Jewish religion 
resulted from the murder of its founder. The 
apparently rationalistic religions of the East are 
in essence ancestor cults; therefore they stop 
short at an early stage of the reconstruction of 
the past. If it is correct that in the primitive 
peoples of our time we find as the sole content 
:>f their religion the worship of a highest Being, 
then we can interpret this only as a withering in 
the development of religion, and from here draw 
a parallel with the innumerable cases of rudiment- 
ary neuroses which we find in clinical psychology. 
Why here as well as there no further development 
took place we do not understand. We must hold 
the individual gifts of these peoples responsible 
or it, the direction their activities take and their 
general social condition. Besides it is a good 
^ule in analytic work to be satisfied with explain - 
ng what exists and not to try to explain what has 
lot happened. 
The second difficulty in this translation into 


mass psychology is much more significant, because 
it presents a new problem of a cardinal nature. 
The question arises in what form is the active 
tradition in the life of the peoples still extant. 
There is no such question with individuals, for 
here the matter is settled by the existence of 
memory traces of the past in the unconscious. 
Let us go back to our historical example. The 
compromise in Qades, we said, was based on the 
continued existence of a powerful tradition 
living on in the people who had returned from 
Egypt. There is no problem here. We suggested 
that such a tradition was maintained by conscious 
memory of oral communications which had been 
passed on from forbears of only two or three 
generations ago. The latter had been participants 
and eye-witnesses of the events in question. Can 
we believe the same, however, for the later 
centuries, namely, that the tradition was always 
based on a knowledge, communicated in a normal 
way, which had been transmitted from forbear 
to descendant ? Who the persons were that 
stored such knowledge and passed it on from 
mouth to mouth we no longer know, as we did 
in the earlier case. According to Sellin, the 
tradition of the murder of Moses was always 
present among the Priests, until at last it was set 
down in writing which alone made it possible 
for Sellin to divine it. Yet it could not have been 
known to many; it was not general knowledge. 


And is this form of transmission enough to explain 
its effect ? Can we credit such a knowledge on 
the part of a few with the power to seize the 
imagination of the masses so lastingly when they 
learn of it ? It rather looks as if there were a 
something also in the ignorant mass of the people 
akin to this knowledge on the part of the few, 
which comes forward to meet it as soon as it is 

It becomes harder still to arrive at a conclusion 
when we turn to the analogous case in primaeval 
times. In the course of thousands of centuries 
it certainly became forgotten that there was a 
primaeval father possessing the qualities we men- 
tioned, and what fate he met. Nor can we assume 
an oral tradition as we did with Moses. In what 
sense, therefore, can there be any question of a 
tradition ? In what form could it have existed ? 

To help readers who are unwilling or un- 
prepared to plunge into complicated psycho- 
logical matters I shall place the result of the 
following investigation at the very beginning. I 
hold that the concordance between the individual 
and the mass is in this point almost complete. 
The masses, too, retain an impression of the past 
in unconscious memory traces. 

The case of the individual seems to be clear 
enough. The memory trace of early events he 
has retained, but he has retained it in a special 
psychological condition. One can say that the 


individual always knew of them, in the sense that 
we know repressed material. We have formed 
certain conceptions and they can easily be 
proved by analysis of how something gets 
forgotten and of how after a time it can come to 
light again. The forgotten material is not ex- 
tinguished, only " repressed " ; its traces are 
extant in the memory in their original freshness, 
but they are isolated by " counter-cathexes." 
They cannot establish contact with the other 
intellectual processes; they are unconscious, 
inaccessible to consciousness. It may happen 
that certain parts of the repressed material have 
escaped this process, have remained accessible 
to memory and occasionally reappear in con- 
sciousness, but even then they are isolated, a 
foreign body without any connection with the 
rest of the mind. This may happen, but it need 
not happen. Repression may also be complete, 
and this is the case we propose to examine. 

This repressed material retains its impetus to 
penetrate into consciousness. It reaches its aim 
when three conditions are present. ( i ) When the 
strength of counter-cathexis is diminished by an 
illness which acts on the Ego itself, or through a 
different distribution of cathexis in the Ego as 
happens regularly during sleep. (2) When those 
instincts attached to the repressed material become 
strengthened. The processes during puberty pro- 
vide the best example for this. (3) Whenever 


recent events produce impressions or experi- 
ences which are so much like the repressed 
material that they have the power to awaken it. 
Thus the recent material gets strengthened by the 
latent energy of the repressed, and the repressed 
material produces its effect behind the recent 
material and with its help. 

In none of the three cases does the material 
that had been repressed succeed in reaching 
consciousness unimpeded or without change. It 
must always undergo distortions which bear witness 
to the not entirely overcome resistance derived 
from the counter-cathexis, or else to the modify- 
ing influence of a recent experience or to both. 

As a distinguishing sign and landmark we have 
used the difference between a psychic process 
being conscious or unconscious. The repressed 
material is unconscious. It would be a cheering 
simplification if this sentence could be reversed, 
i.e. if the difference of the qualities " conscious " 
and " unconscious " were identical with the 
difference: belonging to the Ego or repressed. 
The fact that our mental life harboured such 
isolated and unconscious material would be new 
and important enough. In reality things are 
more complex. It is true that all repressed 
material is unconscious, but not true that every- 
thing belonging to the Ego is conscious. We 
become aware that being conscious is an 
ephemeral quality which adheres to a psychical 


process only temporarily. This is why for our 
purposes we must replace "conscious" by "capable 
of being conscious," and we call this quality " pre- 
conscious." We then say more correctly : the Ego 
is essentially preconscious (virtually conscious) , 
but parts of the Ego are unconscious. 

This last statement teaches us that the qualities 
to which we have attended so far do not suffice 
to show us the way in the darkness of mental life. 
We must introduce another distinction, one no 
longer qualitative, but topographical, and 
which lends it a special value genetic at the same 
time. Now we distinguish from our mental life 
which we see to be an apparatus consisting of 
several hierarchies, districts or provinces one 
region, which we term the " real Ego," from 
another which we call the " Id." The Id is the 
older; the Ego has developed out of it through the 
influence of the outer world as the bark develops 
around a tree. Our primary instincts start in the 
Id; all processes in the Id are unconscious. The 
Ego corresponds, as we have mentioned, with the 
realm of the preconscious; parts of it normally 
remain unconscious. The psychical processes in 
the " Id " obey quite different laws; their course 
and the influence they exert on one another are 
different from those that reign in the Ego. It is 
the discovery of these differences that has guided 
us to our new understanding and lends confirma- 
tion to it. 


The repressed material must be regarded as 
belonging to the Id and obeys its mechanisms; 
it differs from it only in respect of its genesis. 
This differentiation takes place during the early 
period, while the Ego is developing out of the Id. 
Then the Ego takes possession of part of the Id 
and raises it on to the preconscious level; other 
parts are thus not affected and remain in the Id 
as the " unconscious " proper. In the further de- 
velopment of the Ego, however, certain psychical 
impressions and processes in it get shut out by 
defensive mechanisms; they are deprived of their 
preconscious character, so that they are degraded 
again to become integral parts of the Id. This, 
therefore, is the " repressed material " in the Id. 
As regards the passage between the two mental 
provinces we assume, on the one hand, that 
unconscious processes in the Id can be raised to 
a preconscious level and incorporated into the 
Ego, and, on the other hand, that preconscious 
material in the Ego can travel the opposite way 
and be shifted back into the Id. That later on 
another district, the " Super-ego," is delimited 
in the Ego, does not concern us in this context. 

All this may seem far from simple, but if one 
has become familiar with the unaccustomed 
topographical conception of the mental apparatus 
then there are no particular difficulties. I will 
add here that the topography of the psyche I 
have here developed has in general nothing to do 


with cerebral anatomy; there is only one point 
where it impinges on it. The unsatisfactoriness of 
this conception which I perceive as clearly as 
anyone has its roots in our complete ignorance 
of the dynamic nature of mental processes. We 
realise that what distinguishes a conscious idea 
from a preconscious one, and this from an un- 
conscious one, cannot be anything else but a 
modification, or perhaps also another distribution, 
of psychic energy. We speak of cathexes and 
hypercathexes, but beyond this we lack all 
knowledge and even a beginning for a useful 
working hypothesis. Of the phenomenon of 
consciousness we are at least able to say that it 
cleaves originally to perception. All perceptions 
which come about through painful, tactile, 
auditory or visual stimuli are the more likely to 
be conscious. Thought processes, and what may 
be analogous to them in the Id, are unconscious 
per se, and obtain their entry into consciousness 
by their connection, via the function of speech, 
with memory traces of perceptions through touch 
and ear. In the animal, which lacks speech, these 
relationships must be simpler. 

The impressions of the early traumata, from 
which we started, are either not translated into 
the preconscious or they are soon re -directed 
into the Id through repression. Their memory- 
residues are then unconscious and operate from 
the Id. We can believe we can follow their 


further fate distinctly as long as they deal with 
personal experiences. A new complication arises, 
however, when we become aware that there 
probably exists in the mental life of the individual 
not only what he has experienced himself, but 
also what he brought with him at birth, fragments 
of phylogenetic origin, an archaic heritage. Then 
the question arises : in what does this inheritance 
consist, what does it contain, and what evidence 
of it is there ? 

The first and most certain answer is that it 
consists in certain dispositions, such as all living 
beings possess: that is to say, in the ability and 
tendency to follow a certain direction of develop- 
ment, and to react in a particular way to certain 
excitations, impressions and stimuli. Since 
experience shows that individuals differ in this 
respect, our archaic inheritance includes these 
differences; they represent what is recognized 
as the constitutional element in the individual. 
Since all human beings go through the same 
experiences, at least in their earliest years, they 
also react to them in the same way, and this is why 
the doubt arose whether these reactions with all 
their individual differences should not be reckoned 
as part of that archaic heritage. This doubt must 
be rejected; the fact of this similarity does not 
enrich our knowledge of the archaic heritage. 

Meanwhile analytic research has yielded several 
results which give us food for thought. First of 


all there is the universality of speech symbolism. 
Symbolic substitution of one object through 
another the same applies to actions our 
children are conversant with, and it seems quite 
natural to them. We cannot trace the way in 
which they learned it and must admit that in 
many cases to learn it would be impossible. It 
is original knowledge, which the adult later on 
forgets. He employs, it is true, the same symbol- 
ism in his dreams, but he does not understand 
them unless the analyst interprets them for him 
and even then he is loath to believe the translation. 
When he has used one of the common phrases of 
speech in which this symbolism is crystallized, he 
has to admit that its true meaning had quite 
escaped him. Symbolism even ignores the differ- 
ence in languages; investigation would probably 
show that it is ubiquitous, the same with all 
peoples. Here there seems to be an assured case 
of archaic inheritance from the time when 
speech was developing, although one might 
attempt another explanation: one might say 
that these are thought-connections between ideas 
which were formed during the historical develop- 
ment of speech and which have to be repeated 
every time the individual passes through such a 
development. This then would be a case of 
inheriting a thought-disposition as elsewhere one 
inherits an instinctual disposition; so it again 
would contribute nothing new to our problem. 


Analytic research, however, has also brought 
to light other things, which exceed in significance 
anything we have so far discussed. In studying 
reactions to early traumata we often find to our 
surprise that they do not keep strictly to what the 
individual himself has experienced, but deviate 
from this in a way that would accord much better 
with their being reactions to genetic events and 
in general can be explained only through the 
influence of such. The behaviour of a neurotic 
child to his parents when under the influence of 
an (Edipus and castration complex is very rich 
in such reactions which seem unreasonable in the 
individual and can only be understood phylo- 
genetically, in relation to the experiences of 
earlier generations. It would be amply worth 
while to collect and publish the material on which 
my remarks are based. In fact it seems to me 
convincing enough to allow me to venture 
further and assert that the archaic heritage of 
mankind includes not only dispositions, but 
also ideational contents, memory-traces of the 
experiences of former generations. In this way 
the extent as well as the significance of the 
archaic heritage would be enhanced in a remark- 
able degree. 

On second thoughts I must admit that I have 
argued as if there were no question that there exists 
an inheritance of memory-traces of what our 
forefathers experienced, quite independently of 


direct communication and of the influence of 
education by example. When I speak of an old 
tradition still alive in a people, of the formation 
of a national character, it is such an inherited 
tradition and not one carried on by word of 
mouth that I have in mind. Or at least I did 
not distinguish between the two, and was not 
quite clear about what a bold step I took by 
neglecting this difference. This state of affairs is 
made more difficult, it is true, by the present 
attitude of biological science which rejects the 
idea of acquired qualities being transmitted to 
descendants. I admit, in all modesty, that in 
spite of this I cannot picture biological develop- 
ment proceeding without taking this factor into 
account. The two cases, it is true, are not quite 
similar; with the former it is a question of 
acquired qualities that are hard to conceive, 
with the latter memory-traces of external ex- 
pressions, something almost concrete. Probably, 
however, we cannot an fond imagine one without 
the other. If we accept the continued existence 
of such memory-traces in our archaic inheritance 
then we have bridged the gap between individual 
and mass psychology, and can treat peoples as 
we do the individual neurotic. Though we may 
admit that for the memory-traces in our archaic 
inheritance we have so far no stronger proof 
than those remnants of memory evoked by 
analytic work, which call for a derivation from 


phylogenesis, yet this proof seems to me convinc- 
ing enough to postulate such a state of affairs. If 
things are different then we are unable to advance 
one step further on our way, either in psycho- 
analysis or in mass psychology. It is bold, but 

In making this postulate we also do something 
else. We diminish the over-wide gap human 
arrogance in former times created between man 
and beast. If the so-called instincts of animals 
which from the very beginning allow them to 
behave in their new conditions of living as if they 
were old and long-established ones if this 
instinctual life of animals permits of any explana- 
tion at all, it can only be this: that they carry 
over into their new existence the experience of 
their kind, that is to say, that they have preserved 
in their minds memories of what their ancestors 
experienced. In the human animal things should 
not be fundamentally different. His own archaic 
heritage though different in extent and charac- 
ter corresponds to the instincts of animals. 

After these considerations I have no qualms in 
saying that men have always known in this 
particular way that once upon a time they had 
a primaeval father and killed him. 

Two further questions must here be answered. 
First under what conditions does such a memory 
enter into the archaic inheritance and, secondly, 
in what circumstances can it become active, that 


is to say, penetrate from its unconscious state in 
the Id into consciousness though in an altered 
and distorted form ? The answer to the first 
question is easy to formulate: it happens when 
the experience is important enough or is repeated 
often enough or in both cases. With the father- 
murder both conditions are fulfilled. To the 
second question I would remark: there may be 
a number of influences which need not all be 
known; a spontaneous course is also possible in 
analogy with what happens in some neuroses. 
The awakening, however, of the memory-trace 
through a recent real repetition of the event is 
certainly of decisive importance. The murder of 
Moses was such a repetition, and later on the 
supposed judicial murder of Christ, so that these 
events move into the foreground as causative 
agents. It seems as if the genesis of monotheism 
would not have been possible without these 
events. We are reminded of the words of the 

" All that is to live in endless song 
Must in life-time first be drown'd." l 

I will conclude with a remark which furnishes 
a psychological argument. A tradition based only 
on oral communication could not produce the 

1 Schiller: The Gods of Greece (English translation by E. A. 


obsessive character which appertains to religious 
phenomena. It would be listened to, weighed 
and perhaps rejected, just like any other news 
from outside ; it would never achieve the privilege 
of being freed from the coercion of logical think- 
ing. It must first have suffered the fate of 
repression, the state of being unconscious, before 
it could produce such mighty effects on its 
return, and force the masses under its spell, such 
as we have observed with astonishment and 
hitherto without understanding in religious 
tradition. And this is a consideration which tilts 
the balance in favour of the belief that things 
really happened as I have tried to describe them 
or at least very much in that way. 

i. Summary 

The following part of this essay cannot be sent 
forth into the world without lengthy explanations 
and apologies. For it is no other than a faithful, 
often literal, repetition of the first part save that 
some of the critical investigations have been 
condensed and that there are additions referring 
to the problem of how and why the character of 


the Jewish people developed in the form it did. 
I know that this way of presenting my subject is 
as ineffectual as it is inartistic. I myself dis- 
approve of it wholeheartedly. Why have I not 
avoided it ? The answer to this question is easy 
for me to find, but rather hard to admit. I have 
not been able to efface the traces of the unusual 
way in which this book came to be written. 

In truth it has been written twice over. The 
first time was a few years ago in Vienna, where 
I did not believe in the possibility of publishing 
it. I decided to put it away, but it haunted me 
like an unlaid ghost, and I compromised by 
publishing two parts of the book independently 
in the periodical Imago. They were the psycho- 
analytical starting points of the whole book: 
" Moses an Egyptian " and the historical essay 
built on it " If Moses was an Egyptian. " The 
rest, which might give offence and was danger- 
ous namely, the application of my theory to the 
genesis of monotheism and my interpretation of 
religion I kept back, as I thought, for ever. 
Then in March 1938 came the unexpected 
German invasion. It forced me to leave my home, 
but it also freed me of the fear lest my publishing 
the book might cause psycho-analysis to be for- 
bidden in a country where its practice was still 
allowed. No sooner had I arrived in England 
than I found the temptation of making my with- 
held knowledge accessible to the world irresistible, 


and so I started to rewrite the third part of my 
essay, to follow the two already published. This 
naturally necessitated a regrouping of the 
material, if only in part. In this secondary re- 
editing, however, I did not succeed in fitting the 
whole material in. On the other hand, I could 
not make up my mind to relinquish the two 
former contributions altogether, and this is how 
the compromise came about of adding unaltered 
a whole piece of the first version to the second, a 
device which has the disadvantage of extensive 

I might, it is true, find comfort in the reflection 
that the matter I treated of was so new and 
significant quite apart from whether my presen- 
tation of it was correct or not that it must count 
as only a minor misfortune if people are made to 
read about it twice over. There are things that 
should be said more than once and cannot be 
repeated often enough. It should, however, be 
left to the reader's free will whether he wishes to 
linger with a subject or return to it. A conclusion 
should not be emphasized by the sly device of 
dishing up the same subject twice in the same 
book. By doing so one proves oneself a clumsy 
writer and has to bear the blame for it. However, 
the creative power of an author does not, alas, 
always follow his good will. A work grows as it 
will and sometimes confronts its author as an 
independent, even an alien, creation. 


2. The People of Israel 

If we are quite clear in our minds that a pro- 
cedure like the present one to take from the 
traditional material what seems useful and to 
reject what is unsuitable, and then to put the 
individual pieces together according to their 
psychological probability does not afford any 
security for finding the truth, then one is quite 
right to ask why such an attempt was under- 
taken. In answer to this I must cite the result. 
If we substantially reduce the severe demands 
usually made on an historical and psychological 
investigation then it might be possible to clear 
up problems that have always seemed worthy 
of attention and which, in consequence of 
recent events, force themselves again on our 
observation. We know that of all the peoples 
who lived in antiquity in the basin of the Medi- 
terranean the Jewish people is perhaps the only 
one that still exists in name and probably also 
in nature. With an unexampled power of 
resistance it has defied misfortune and ill-treat- 
ment, developed special character traits and, 
incidentally, earned the hearty dislike of all 
other peoples. Whence comes this resistance of the 
Jew, and how his character is connected with his 
fate, are things one would like to understand 

We may start from one character trait of the 


Jews which governs their relationship to other 
people. There is no doubt that they have a very 
good opinion of themselves, think themselves 
nobler, on a higher level, superior to the others 
from whom they are also separated by many of 
their customs. 1 With this they are animated by 
a special trust in life, such as is bestowed by the 
secret possession of a precious gift ; it is a kind of 
optimism. Religious people would call it trust in 

We know the reason of this attitude of theirs 
and what their precious treasure is. They really 
believe themselves to be God's chosen people; 
they hold themselves to be specially near to Him, 
and this is what makes them proud and confident. 
According to trustworthy accounts they behaved 
in Hellenistic times as they do to-day. The 
Jewish character, therefore, even then was what 
it is now, and the Greeks, among whom and 
alongside whom they lived, reacted to the Jewish 
qualities in the same way as their " hosts " do 
to-day. They reacted, so one might think, as if 
they too believed in the preference which the 
Israelites claimed for themselves. When one is 
the declared favourite of the dreaded father one 
need not be surprised that the other brothers and 
sisters are jealous. What this jealousy can lead to 

1 The insult frequently hurled at them in ancient times that they 
were lepers (cf. Manetho) must be read as a projection: " They 
keep apart from us as if we were lepers." 


is exquisitely shown in the Jewish legend of 
Joseph and his brethren. The subsequent course 
of world history seemed to justify this Jewish 
arrogance, for when later on God consented to 
send mankind a Messiah and Redeemer He again 
chose Him from among the Jewish people. The 
other peoples would then have had reason to 
say: " Indeed, they were right; they are God's 
chosen people. " Instead of which it happened 
that the salvation through Jesus Christ brought 
on the Jews nothing but a stronger hatred, while 
the Jews themselves derived no advantage from 
this second proof of being favoured, because they 
did not recognize the Redeemer. 

On the strength of our previous remarks we 
may say that it was the man Moses who stamped 
the Jewish people with this trait, one which 
became so significant to them for all time. He 
enhanced their self-confidence by assuring them 
that they were the chosen people of God; he 
declared them to be holy, and laid on them the 
duty to keep apart from others. Not that the 
other peoples on their part lacked self-confidence. 
Then, just as now, each nation thought itself 
superior to all the others. The self-confidence of 
the Jews, however, became through Moses 
anchored in religion ; it became a part of their 
religious belief. By the particularly close rela- 
tionship to their God they acquired a part of His 
grandeur. And since we know that behind the 


God who chose the Jews and delivered them from 
Egypt stood the man Moses who achieved that 
deed, ostensibly at God's command, we venture 
to say this: it was one man, the man Moses, 
who created the Jews. To him this people owes 
its tenacity in supporting life; to him, however, 
also much of the hostility which it has met and is 
meeting still. 

3. The Great Man 

How is it possible that one single man can 
develop such extraordinary effectiveness, that he 
can create out of indifferent individuals and 
families one people, can stamp this people with 
its definite character and determine its fate for 
millenia to come ? Is not such an assumption a 
retrogression to the manner of thinking that 
produced creation myths and hero worship, to 
times in which historical writing exhausted itself 
in narrating the dates and life histories of cer- 
tain individuals sovereigns or conquerors ? The 
inclination of modern times tends rather to trace 
back the events of human history to more hidden, 
general and impersonal factors the forcible 
influence of economic circumstances, changes in 
food supply, progress in the use of materials and 
tools, migrations caused by increase in population 
and change of climate. In these factors individuals 
play no other part than that of exponents or 


representatives of mass tendencies which must 
come to expression and which found that 
expression as it were by chance in such persons. 

These are quite legitimate points of view, but 
they remind us of a significant discrepancy 
between the nature of our thinking apparatus 
and the organization of the world which we are 
trying to apprehend. Our imperative need for 
cause and effect is satisfied when each process 
has one demonstrable cause. In reality, outside 
us this is hardly so; each event seems to be over- 
determined and turns out to be the effect of 
several converging causes. Intimidated by the 
countless complications of events research takes 
the part of one chain of events against another, 
stipulates contrasts that do not exist and which 
are created merely through tearing apart more 
comprehensive relations. 1 

If, therefore, the investigation of one particular 
case demonstrates the outstanding influence of a 
single human personality, our conscience need 
not reproach us that through accepting this 
conclusion we have dealt a blow at the doctrine 
of the significance of those general impersonal 

1 1 would guard myself, however, against a possible misunder- 
standing. I do not mean to say that the world is so complicated 
that every assertion must hit the truth somewhere. No, our 
thinking has preserved the liberty of inventing dependencies and 
connections that have no equivalent in reality. It obviously prizes 
this gift very highly, since it makes such ample use of it inside as 
well as outside of science. 


factors. In point of fact there is without doubt 
room for both. In the genesis of monotheism we 
cannot, it is true, point to any other external 
factor than those we have already mentioned, 
namely, that this development has to do with the 
establishing of closer connections among differ- 
ent nations and the existence of a great empire. 
We will keep, therefore, a place for " the great 
man " in the chain, or rather in the network, of 
determining causes. It may not be quite useless, 
however, to ask under what condition we bestow 
this title of honour. We may be surprised to find 
that it is not so easy to answer this question. A 
first formulation, which would define as great a 
human being specially endowed with qualities 
we value highly, is obviously in all respects 
unsuitable. Beauty, for instance, and muscular 
strength much as they may be envied do not 
establish a claim to " greatness. 55 There should 
perhaps be mental qualities present, psychical 
and intellectual distinction. In the latter respect 
we have misgivings: a man who has an out- 
standing knowledge in one particular field would 
not be called a great man without any further 
reason. We should certainly not apply the term 
to a master of chess or to a virtuoso on a musical 
instrument, and not necessarily to a distinguished 
artist or a man of science. In such a case we 
should be content to say: he is a great writer, 
painter, mathematician or physicist, a pioneer in 


this field or that, but we should pause before 
pronouncing him a great man. When we declare, 
for instance, Goethe, Leonardo da Vinci and 
Beethoven, to be great men, then something else 
must move us to do so beyond the admiration of 
their grandiose creations. If it were not for just 
such examples one might very well conceive the 
idea that the title " a great man " is reserved by 
preference for men of action that is to say, 
conquerors, generals and rulers and was in- 
tended as a recognition of the greatness of their 
achievements and the strength of the influence 
that emanated from them. However, this too is 
unsatisfying, and is fully contradicted by our 
condemnation of so many worthless people of 
whom one cannot deny that they exercised a 
great influence on their own and later times. Nor 
can success be chosen as a distinguishing feature 
of greatness if one thinks of the vast number of 
great men who, instead of being successful, 
perished after being dogged by misfortune. 

We should, therefore, tentatively, incline to the 
conclusion that it is hardly worth while to search 
for an unequivocal definition of the concept: 
a great man. It seems to be a rather loosely used 
term, one bestowed without due consideration 
and given to the supernormal development of 
certain human qualities: in doing so we keep 
close to the original literal sense of the word 
" greatness. 55 We may also remember that it is 


not so much the nature of the great man that 
arouses our interest as the question of what are 
the qualities by virtue of which he influences his 
contemporaries. I propose to shorten this investi- 
gation, however, since it threatens to lead us far 
from our goal. 

Let us agree, therefore, that the great man 
influences his contemporaries in two ways: 
through his personality and through the idea for 
which he stands. This idea may lay stress on an 
old group of wishes in the masses, or point to a 
new aim for their wishes, or again lure the masses 
by other means. Sometimes and this is surely 
the more primitive effect the personality alone 
exerts its influence and the idea plays a decidedly 
subordinate part. Why the great man should 
rise to significance at all we have no doubt 
whatever. We know that the great majority of 
people have a strong need for authority which it 
can admire, to which it can submit, and which 
dominates and sometimes even ill-treats it. We 
have learned from the psychology of the individual 
whence comes this need of the masses. It is the 
longing for the father that lives in each of us from 
his childhood days, for the same father whom the 
hero of legend boasts of having overcome. And 
now it begins to dawn on us that all the features 
with which we furnish the great man are traits 
of the father, that in this similarity lies the essence 
which so far has eluded us- of the great man. 


The decisiveness of thought, the strength of will, 
the forcefulness of his deeds, belong to the picture 
of the father; above all other things, however, 
the self-reliance and independence of the great 
man: his divine conviction of doing the right 
thing, which may pass into ruthlessness. He must 
be admired, he may be trusted, but one cannot 
help being also afraid of him. We should have taken 
a cue from the word itself; who else but the father 
should have been in childhood the great man ? 

Without doubt it must have been a tremendous 
father imago that stooped in the person of Moses 
to tell the poor Jewish labourers that they were 
his dear children. And the conception of a 
unique, eternal, omnipotent God could not have 
been less overwhelming for them; He who 
thought them worthy to make a bond with Him, 
promised to take care of them if only they 
remained faithful to His worship. Probably they 
did not find it easy to separate the image of the 
man Moses from that of his God, and their 
instinct was right in this, since Moses might very 
well have incorporated into the character of his 
God some of his own traits, such as his irascibility 
and implacability. And when they killed this 
great man they only repeated an evil deed which 
in primaeval times had been a law directed against 
the divine king, and which as we know 
derives from a still older prototype. 1 

1 Frazer. Loc. cit., p. 192. 


When, on the one hand, the figure of the great 
man has grown into a divine one, it is time to 
remember, on the other hand, that the father 
also was once a child. The great religious idea 
for which the man Moses stood was, as we have 
stated, not his own; he had taken it over from 
his King Ikhnaton. And the latter whose 
greatness as a founder of religion is proved with- 
out a doubt followed perhaps intimations which 
through his mother or by other ways had reached 
him from the near or the far East. 

We cannot trace the network any further. If 
the present argument, however, is correct so far, 
the idea of monotheism must have returned in 
the fashion of a boomerang into the country of 
its origin. It appears fruitless to attempt to 
ascertain what merit attaches to an individual in 
a new idea. Obviously many have taken part in 
its development and made contributions to it. 
On the other hand, it would be wrong to break 
off the chain of causation with Moses and to 
neglect what his successors, the Jewish prophets, 
achieved. Monotheism had not taken root in 
Egypt. The same failure might have happened 
in Israel after the people had thrown off the 
inconvenient and pretentious religion imposed 
on them. From the mass of the Jewish people, 
however, there arose again and again men who 
lent new colour to the fading tradition, renewed 
the admonishments and demands of Moses and 


did not rest until the lost cause was once more 
regained. In the constant endeavour of centuries, 
and last but not least through two great reforms 
the one before, the other after the Babylonian 
exile there took place the change of the popular 
God Jahve into the God whose worship Moses 
had forced upon the Jews. And it is the proof of 
a special psychical fitness in the mass which had 
become the Jewish people that it could bring 
forth so many persons who were ready to take 
upon themselves the burden of the Mosaic 
religion for the reward of believing that their 
people was a chosen one and perhaps for other 
benefits of a similar order. 

4. The Progress in Spirituality 

To achieve lasting psychical effects in a people it 
is obviously not sufficient to assure them that they 
were specially chosen by God. This assurance 
must be proved if they are to attach belief to it 
and draw their conclusions from that belief. In 
the religion of Moses the exodus served as such 
a proof; God, or Moses in his name, did not tire 
of citing this proof of favour. The feast of the 
Passover was established to keep this event in 
mind, or rather an old feast was endowed with 
this memory. Yet it was only a memory. The 
exodus itself belonged to a dim past. At the 
time the signs of God's favour were meagre 


enough; the fate of the people of Israel would 
rather indicate his disfavour. Primitive peoples 
used to depose or even punish their gods if they 
did not fulfil their duty of granting them victory, 
fortune and comfort. Kings have often been 
treated similarly to gods in every age ; the ancient 
identity of king and god, i.e. their common 
origin, thus becomes manifest. Modern peoples 
also are in the habit of thus getting rid of their 
kings if the splendour of their reign is dulled by 
defeats accompanied by the loss of land and 
money. Why the people of Israel, however, 
adhered to their God all the more devotedly the 
worse they were treated by Him that is a 
question which we must leave open for the 

It may stimulate us to enquire whether the 
religion of Moses had given the people nothing 
else but an increase in self-confidence through the 
consciousness of being " chosen." The next 
element is indeed easily found. Their religion 
also gave to the Jews a much more grandiose 
idea of their God or to express it more soberly 
the idea of a more august God. Whoever believed 
in this God took part in his greatness, so to speak, 
might feel uplifted himself. This may not be 
quite obvious to unbelievers, but it may be 
illustrated by the simile of the high confidence a 
Briton would feel in a foreign land, made unsafe 
by revolt, a confidence in which a subject of some 


small continental state would be entirely lacking. 
The Briton counts on his Government to send a 
warship if a hair of his head is touched and also 
on the rebels knowing very well that this is so, 
while the small state does not even own a warship. 
The pride in the greatness of the British Empire 
has therefore one of its roots in the consciousness 
of the greater security and protection that a 
British subject enjoys. The same may be true of 
the idea of the great God and since one would 
hardly presume to assist God in his conduct of 
the world pride in the greatness of God goes 
together with that of being " chosen. 55 

Among the precepts of Mosaic religion is one 
that has more significance than is at first obvious. 
It is the prohibition against making an image of 
God, which means the compulsion to worship an 
invisible God. I surmise that in this point Moses 
had surpassed the Aton religion in strictness. 
Perhaps he meant to be consistent; his God was 
to have neither a name nor a countenance. The 
prohibition was perhaps a fresh precaution 
against magic malpractices. If this prohibition 
was accepted, however, it was bound to exercise 
a profound influence. For it signified sub- 
ordinating sense perception to an abstract idea; 
it was a triumph of spirituality over the senses; 
more precisely an instinctual renunciation 1 

1 [I use this phrase (Triebverzicht) as an abbreviation for 
" renouncing the satisfaction of an urge derived from an instinct ". 


accompanied by its psychologically necessary 

To make more credible what at first glance 
does not appear convincing we must call to mind 
other processes of similar character in the develop- 
ment of human culture. The earliest among them 
and perhaps the most important we can 
discern only in dim outline in the obscurity of 
primaeval times. Its surprising effects make it 
necessary to conclude that it happened. In our 
children, in adult neurotics as well as in primitive 
people, we find the mental phenomenon which 
we have called the belief in the " omnipotence of 
thoughts." We judge it to be an over-estimation 
of the influence which our mental faculties the 
intellectual ones in this case can exert on the 
outer world by changing it. All magic, the 
predecessor of science, is basically founded on 
these premisses. All magic of words belongs here, 
as does the conviction of the power connected 
with the knowledge and the pronouncing of a 
name. We surmise that " omnipotence of 
thoughts " was the expression of the pride man- 
kind took in the development of language, which 
had brought in its train such an extraordinary 
increase in the intellectual faculties. There 
opened then the new realm of spirituality where 
conceptions, memories, and deductions became 
of decisive importance, in contrast to the lower 
psychical activity which concerned itself with the 


immediate perceptions of the sense organs. It 
was certainly one of the most important stages on 
the way to becoming human. 

Another process of later time confronts us in a 
much more tangible form. Under the influence 
of external conditions which we need not follow 
up here and which in part are also not sufficiently 
known it happened that the matriarchal struc- 
ture of society was replaced by a patriarchal 
one. This naturally brought with it a revolution 
in the existing state of the law. An echo of this 
revolution can still be heard, I think, in the 
Oresteia of ^Eschylos. This turning from the 
mother to the father, however, signifies above all 
a victory of spirituality over the senses, that is to 
say a step forward in culture, since maternity is 
proved by the senses whereas paternity is a 
surmise based on a deduction and a premiss. This 
declaration in favour of the thought process, there- 
by raising it above sense perception, was proved 
to be a step charged with serious consequences. 

Some time between the two cases I have 
mentioned another event took place which shows 
a closer relationship to the ones we have investi- 
gated in the history of religion. Man found that 
he was faced with the acceptance of " spiritual " 
forces, that is to say such forces as cannot be 
apprehended by the senses, particularly not by 
sight, and yet having undoubted, even extremely 
strong, effects. If we may trust to language, it 


was the movement of the air that provided the 
image of spirituality, since the spirit borrows its 
name from the breath of wind (animus, spiritus, 
Hebrew: ruach= smoke). The idea of the soul 
was thus born as the spiritual principle in the 
individual. Observation found the breath of air 
again in the human breath which ceases with 
death ; even to-day we talk of a dying man 
breathing his last. Now the realm of spirits had 
opened for man, and he was ready to endow 
everything in nature with the soul he had dis- 
covered in himself. The whole world became 
animated, and science, coming so much later, had 
enough to do in disestablishing the former state of 
affairs and has not yet finished this task. 

Through the Mosaic prohibition God was raised 
to a higher level of spirituality; the door was 
opened to further changes in the idea of God of 
which we shall speak later. At present another of 
its effects will occupy us. All such progress in 
spirituality results in increasing self-confidence, 
in making people proud so that they feel superior 
to those who have remained in the bondage of the 
senses. We know that Moses had given the Jews 
the proud feeling of being God's chosen people; 
by de -materialising God a new, valuable con- 
tribution was made to the secret treasure of the 
people. The Jews preserved their inclination 
towards spiritual interests. The political mis- 
fortune of the nation taught them to appreciate 


the only possession they had retained, their 
written records, at its true value. Immediately 
after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem 
by Titus, Rabbi Jochanaan ben Sakkai asked for 
permission to open at Jabne the first school for 
the study of the Torah. From now on it was the 
Holy Book, and the study of it, that kept the 
scattered people together. 

So much is generally known and accepted. I 
only wished to add that this whole develop- 
ment, so characteristic of the Jews, had been 
initiated by Moses' prohibition against worship- 
ping God in a visible form. 

The preference which through two thousand 
years the Jews have given to spiritual endeavour 
has, of course, had its effect; it has helped to 
build a dyke against brutality and the inclination 
to violence which are usually found where 
athletic development becomes the ideal of the 
people. The harmonious development of spiritual 
and bodily activity as achieved by the Greeks 
was denied to the Jews. In this conflict their 
decision was at least made in favour of what is 
culturally the more important. 

5. Renunciation versus Gratification 1 

It is not at all obvious why progress in spiritual- 
ity and subordination of the senses should raise 

1 (See footnote on p. 178.) 


the self-confidence of a person as well as of a 
nation. This seems to presuppose a definite 
standard of value and another person or institu- 
tion who uses it. For an explanation we turn to 
an analogous case in the psychology of the 
individual which we have learned to understand. 
When the Id makes an instinctual demand of 
an erotic or aggressive nature on a human being, 
the most simple and natural response for the Ego, 
which governs the apparatus for thinking and 
muscle innervation, is to satisfy this by an action. 
This satisfaction of the instinct is felt as pleasure 
by the Ego, just as not satisfying this instinct 
would undoubtedly become a source of discom- 
fort. Now it may happen that the Ego eschews 
satisfaction of the instinct because of external 
obstacles, namely, when it realizes that the action 
in question would bring in its course serious 
danger to the Ego. Such a refraining from satis- 
faction, an " instinctual renunciation " because of 
external obstacles as we say, in obedience to 
the reality-principle is never pleasurable. The 
instinctual renunciation would bring about a 
lasting painful tension if we did not succeed in 
diminishing the strength of the instinctual urge 
itself through a displacement of energy. This 
instinctual renunciation may also be forced on 
us, however, by other motives, which we rightly 
call inner ones. In the course of individual 
development a part of the inhibiting forces in the 


outer world becomes internalized; a standard 
is created in the Ego which opposes the other 
faculties by observation, criticism and prohibition. 
We call this new standard the super -ego. From now 
on the Ego, before undertaking to satisfy the 
instincts, has to consider not only the dangers ol 
the outer world, but also the objections of the 
super-ego, and has therefore more occasion for 
refraining from satisfying the instinct. While, 
however, instinctual renunciation for external 
reasons is only painful, renunciation for internal 
reasons, in obedience to the demands of the super- 
ego, has another economic effect. It brings 
besides the inevitable pain a gain in pleasure to 
the Ego as it were, a substitutive satisfaction. 
The Ego feels uplifted; it is proud of the renuncia- 
tion as of a valuable achievement. We think we 
can follow the mechanism of this gain in pleasure. 
The super-ego is the successor and representative 
of the parents (and educators), who superintended 
the actions of the individual in his first years of 
life; it perpetuates their functions almost without 
a change. It keeps the Ego in lasting dependence 
and exercises a steady pressure. The Ego is 
concerned, just as it was in childhood, to retain 
the love of its master, and it feels his appreciation 
as a relief and satisfaction, his reproaches as 
pricks of conscience. When the Ego has made 
the sacrifice to the super-ego of renouncing an 
instinctual satisfaction, it expects to be rewarded 


by being loved all the more. The consciousness 
of deserving this love is felt as pride. At a time 
when the authority was not yet internalized as 
super-ego the relation between the threatened loss 
of love and the instinctual demand would have 
been the same. A feeling of security and satis- 
faction results if out of love to one's parents one 
achieves an instinctual renunciation. This good 
feeling could acquire the peculiar narcissistic 
character of pride only after the authority itself 
had become a part of the Ego. 

How does this explanation of gaining satisfac- 
tion through instinctual renunciation help us in 
understanding the processes we wish to study, 
namely, the increase of self-confidence that 
accompanies progress in spirituality ? Apparently 
they help very little, for the circumstances here 
are very different. There is no instinctual 
renunciation, and there is no second person or 
higher standard for whose benefit the sacrifice is 
made. The second statement will soon appear 
doubtful. One might say: the great man is the 
authority for whose sake the effort is made, and 
since the great man achieves this because he is a 
father substitute we need not be surprised if he 
is allotted the role of super -ego in mass psychology. 
This would, therefore, hold good for the man 
Moses in his relationship to the Jewish people. 
In other points, however, there would seem to be 
no proper analogy. The progress in spirituality 


consists in deciding against the direct sense 
perception in favour of the so-called higher 
intellectual processes, that is to say, in favour of 
memories, reflection and deduction. An example 
of this would be the decision that paternity is 
more important than maternity, although the 
former cannot be proved by the senses as the 
latter can. This is why the child has to have the 
father's name and inherit after him. Another 
example would be: our God is the greatest and 
mightiest, although He is invisible like the storm 
and the soul. Rejecting a sexual or aggressive 
instinctual demand seems to be something very 
different from this. In many examples of progress 
in spirituality for instance, in the triumph of 
father -right we cannot point to the authority 
that provides the measure for what is to be valued 
the more highly. In this case it cannot be the 
father himself, since it is only this progress that 
raises him to the rank of an authority. We are, 
therefore, confronted with the phenomenon that 
during the development of mankind the world of 
the senses becomes gradually mastered by spiritu- 
ality, and that man feels proud and uplifted by 
each such step in progress. One does not know, 
however, why this should be so. Still later it 
happens that spirituality itself is overpowered by 
the altogether mysterious emotional phenomenon 
of belief. This is the famous credo quia absurdum, 
and whoever has compassed this regards it as 


the highest achievement. Perhaps what is com- 
mon to all these psychological situations is some- 
thing else. Perhaps man declares simply that 
the higher achievement is what is more difficult 
to attain, and his pride in it is only narcissism 
heightened by his consciousness of having over- 
come difficulty. 

These considerations are certainly not very 
fruitful, and one might think that they have 
.nothing to do with our investigation into what 
determined the character of the Jewish people. 
This would be only to our advantage, but that 
this train of thought has all the same to do with 
our problem is shown by a fact that will occupy 
us later more extensively. The religion that 
began with the prohibition against making an 
image of its God has developed in the course of 
centuries more and more into a religion of 
instinctual renunciation. Not that it demands 
sexual abstinence; it is content with a consider- 
able restriction of sexual freedom. God, however, 
becomes completely withdrawn from sexuality 
and raised to an ideal of ethical perfection. 
Ethics, however, means restriction of instinctual 
gratification. The Prophets did not tire of main- 
taining that God demands nothing else from his 
people but a just and virtuous life: that is to say, 
abstention from the gratification of all impulses 
that according to our present-day moral stand- 
ards are to be condemned as vicious. And even 


the exhortation to believe in God seems to recede 
in comparison with the seriousness of these 
ethical demands. Instinctual renunciation thus 
appears to play a prominent part in religion, 
although it had not been present in it from the 

Here is the place to make a statement which 
should obviate a misunderstanding. Though it 
may seem that instinctual renunciation, and the 
ethics based on it, do not belong to the essence of 
religion, still they are genetically closely related 
to religion. Totemism, the first form of religion 
of which we know, contains as an indispensable 
part of its system a number of laws and prohibi- 
tions which plainly mean nothing else but 
instinctual renunciation. There is the worship 
of the Totem, which contains the prohibition 
against killing or harming it; exogamy, that is 
to say, the renunciation of the passionately 
desired mothers and sisters of the horde; the 
granting of equal rights for all members of the 
brother horde, i.e. the restriction of the impulse 
to settle their rivalry by brute force. In these 
rules we have to discern the first beginnings of a 
moral and social order. It does not escape our 
notice that here two different motivations come 
into play. The first two prohibitions work in the 
direction of what the murdered father would 
have wished; they, so to speak, perpetuate his 
will. The third law, the one giving equal rights 


to the brothers, ignores the father's wishes. Its 
sense lies in the need of preserving permanently 
the new order which was established after the 
death of the father. Otherwise reversion to the 
former state would have been inevitable. Here 
social laws became separated from others which 
as we might say originated directly from a 
religious context. 

In the abbreviated development of the human 
individual the most important events of that 
process are repeated. Here also it is the parents' 
authority essentially that of the all-powerful 
father who wields the power of punishment 
that demands instinctual renunciation on the 
part of the child and determines what is allowed 
and what is forbidden. What the child calls 
" good " or " naughty " becomes later, when 
society and super-ego take the place of the 
parents, " good, 33 in the sense of moral, or evil, 
virtuous or vicious. But it is still the same thing : 
instinctual renunciation through the presence of 
the authority which replaced and continued that 
of the father. 

Our insight into these problems becomes further 
deepened when we investigate the strange con- 
ception of sanctity. What is it really that appears 
" sacred " compared with other things which we 
respect highly and admit to be important and signi- 
ficant ? On the one hand the connection between 
the sacred and the religious is unmistakable; 


it is so stressed as to be obvious. Everything 
connected with religion is sacred ; it is the 
very core of sanctity. On the other hand our 
judgement is disturbed by the numerous attempts 
to lay claim to the character of holiness by so 
many other things, persons, institutions and 
procedures that have little to do with religion. 
These endeavours are often plainly tendentious. 
Let us proceed from the feature of prohibition 
which adheres so closely to religion. The sacred 
is obviously something that must not be touched. 
A sacred prohibition has a very strong affective 
note, but actually it has no rational motivation. 
For why should it be such a specially hideous 
crime to commit incest with a daughter or sister, 
so much more so than any other sexual relations ? 
When we ask for an explanation we shall surely 
be told that all our feelings cry out against such 
a crime. Yet all this means is that the prohibition 
is taken to be self-evident, that we do not know 
how to explain it. 

That such an explanation is illusory can easily 
be proved. What is reputed to offend our feelings 
used to be a general custom one might say a 
sacred tradition in the ruling families of the 
Ancient Egyptians and other peoples. It went 
without saying that each Pharaoh found his first 
and foremost wife in his sister, and the successors 
of the Pharaohs, the Greek Ptolemies, did not 
hesitate to follow this example. So far we seem 


to discern that incest in this case between 
brother and sister was a prerogative forbidden 
to ordinary mortals and reserved for kings who 
represented the gods on earth. The world of the 
Greek and Germanic myths also took no exception 
to these incestuous relationships. We may surmise 
that the anxious concern for " family " in our 
higher nobility is a remnant of that old privilege, 
and we observe that, as a consequence of inbreed- 
ing continued through many generations in the 
highest social circles, the crowned heads of 
Europe to-day consist in effect of one family. 

To point to the incest of gods, kings and heroes 
helps to dispose of another attempt at explanation, 
namely, the one that would explain the horror of 
incest biologically and reduce it to an instinctive 
knowledge of the harmfulness of inbreeding. It 
is not even certain, however, that there lies any 
danger in inbreeding; let alone that primitive 
races recognized it and guarded against it. The 
uncertainty in determining permitted and pro- 
hibited relationships is another argument against 
presupposing a " natural feeling " as an original 
motive for the horror of incest. 

Our reconstruction of pre-history forces another 
explanation on us. The law of Exogamy, the 
negative expression of which is the fear of incest, 
was the will of the father and continued it after 
his murder. Hence the strength of its affectivity 
and the impossibility of a rational motivation: 


in short its sacredness. I should confidently 
anticipate that an investigation of all other cases oi 
sacred prohibitions would lead to the same result 
as that of the horror of incest, namely that what is 
sacred was originally nothing but the perpetuated 
will of the primaeval father. This would also 
elucidate the ambivalence of the word hitherto 
inexplicable which expresses the conception of 
sacredness. It is the ambivalence which governs 
the relationship to the father. " Sacer " does not 
only mean " sacred/ 5 " blessed/ 5 but also some- 
thing that we can only translate by " accursed/ 5 
" worthy of disgust 55 (" auri sacra fames 55 ). 
The will of the father, however, was not only 
something which one must not touch, which one 
had to hold in high honour, but also something 
which made one shudder because it necessitated 
a painful instinctual renunciation. When we hear 
that Moses " sanctified " his people by introduc- 
ing the custom of circumcision we now understand 
the deep-lying meaning of this pretension. Cir- 
cumcision is the symbolical substitute of castra- 
tion, a punishment which the primaeval father 
dealt his sons long ago out of the fulness of his 
power; and whosoever accepted this symbol 
showed by so doing that he was ready to submit 
to the father's will, although it was at the cost of 
a painful sacrifice. 

To return to ethics : we may say in conclusion 
that a part of its precepts is explained rationally 


by the necessity to mark off the rights of the 
community to the individual, those of the 
individual to the community, and those of 
individuals to one another. What, however, 
appears mysterious, grandiose and mystically 
self-evident owes its character to its connection 
with religion, its origin from the will of the 

6. The Truth in Religion 

How we who have little belief envy those who 
are convinced of the existence of a Supreme 
Power, for whom the world holds no problems 
because He Himself has created all its institutions ! 
How comprehensive, exhaustive and final are the 
doctrines of the believers compared with the 
laboured, poor and patchy attempts at explana- 
tion which are the best we can produce. The 
Divine Spirit, which in itself is the ideal of ethical 
perfection, has planted within the soul of men the 
knowledge of this ideal and at the same time the 
urge to strive toward it. They feel immediately 
what is high and noble and what low and mean. 
Their emotional life is measured by the distance 
from their ideal. It affords them high gratifica- 
tion when they in perihelion, so to speak 
come nearer to it; and they are punished by 
severe distress when in aphelion they have 



moved further away from it. All this is so simply 
and unshakably established. We can only regret 
it if certain experiences of life and observations of 
nature have made it impossible to accept the 
hypothesis of such a Supreme Being. As if the 
world had not enough problems, we are con- 
fronted with the task of finding out how those who 
have faith in a Divine Being could have acquired 
it, and whence this belief derives the enormous 
power that enables it to overwhelm Reason and 
Science. 1 

Let us return to the more modest problem that 
has occupied us so far. We set out to explain 
whence comes the peculiar character of the Jewish 
people which in all probability is what has 
enabled that people to survive until to-day. We 
found that the man Moses created their character 
by giving to them a religion which heightened 
their self-confidence to such a degree that they 
believed themselves to be superior to all other 
peoples. They survived by keeping aloof from 
the others. Admixture of blood made little 
difference, since what kept them together was 
something ideal the possession they had in 
common of certain intellectual and emotional 
values. The Mosaic religion had this effect 
because (i) it allowed the people to share in the 
grandeur of its new conception of God, (2) 

1 (An allusion to the passage in Faust " Verachte nur Vernunft 
und Wissenschaft." Transl.) 


because it maintained that the people had been 
" chosen " by this great God and was destined 
to enjoy the proofs of his special favour, and 
(3) because it forced upon the people a pro- 
gress in spirituality which, significant enough 
in itself, further opened the way to respect for 
intellectual work and to further instinctual 

This then is the conclusion we have attained, 
but, although I do not wish to retract anything 
I have said before, I cannot help feeling that it is 
somehow not altogether satisfactory. The cause 
does not, so to speak, accord with the result. 
The fact we are trying to explain seems to be 
incommensurate with everything we adduce by 
way of explanation. Is it possible that all our 
investigations have so far discovered not the 
whole motivation, but only a superficial layer, and 
that behind this lies hidden another very signifi- 
cant component ? Considering how extraordin- 
arily complicated all causation in life and history 
is we should have been prepared for something 
of that kind. 

The path to this deeper motivation starts at a 
certain passage in the previous discussion. The 
religion of Moses did not achieve its effects 
immediately, but in a strangely indirect manner. 
This does not mean that it did not itself produce 
the effect. It took a long time, many centuries, 
to do so; that goes without saying where the 


development of a people's character is concerned. 
Our modification, however, refers to a fact which 
we have taken from the history of Jewish religion 
or, if one prefers, introduced into it. We said 
that the Jewish people shook off the religion of 
Moses after a certain time; whether they did so 
completely or whether they retained some of its 
precepts we cannot tell. In accepting the sup- 
position that during the long period of the fight 
for Canaan, and the struggles with the peoples 
settled there, the Jahve religion did not sub- 
stantially differ from the worship of the other 
Baalim, we stand on historical ground, in spite of 
all the later tendentious attempts to obscure this 
shaming state of affairs. The religion of Moses, 
however, had not perished. A sort of memory of 
it had survived, obscured and distorted, but 
perhaps supported by individual members of the 
Priest caste through the ancient scripts. It was 
this tradition of a great past that continued to 
exert its effect from the background; it slowly 
attained more and more power over the minds of 
the people, and at last succeeded in changing the 
god Jahve into the God of Moses and in bringing 
again to life the abandoned religion Moses had 
instituted centuries ago. 

In an earlier chapter of this book we have dis- 
cussed the hypothesis that would seem to be 
inevitable if we are to find comprehensible such 
an achievement on the part of tradition. 


7. The Return of the Repressed 

There are a number of similar processes among 
those which the analytic investigation of mental 
life has made known to us. Some of them are 
termed pathological; others are counted among 
the varieties of the normal. This matters little, 
however, for the limits between the two are not 
strictly defined and the mechanisms are to a 
certain extent the same. It is much more impor- 
tant whether the changes in question take place 
in the ego itself or whether they confront it as 
alien; in the latter case they are called symptoms. 
From the fullness of the material at my disposal 
I will choose cases that concern the formation of 

A young girl had developed into the most 
decided contrast to her mother; she had culti- 
vated all the qualities she missed in her mother 
and avoided all those that reminded her of her 
mother. We may add that in former years she 
had identified herself with her mother like any 
other female child and had now come to oppose 
this identification energetically. When this girl 
married, however, and became a wife and mother 
in her turn, we are surprised to find that she 
became more and more like the mother towards 
whom she felt so inimical, until at last the mother 


identification she had overcome had once more 
unmistakably won the day. The same thing 
happens with boys, and even the great Goethe, 
who in his Sturm und Drang period certainly did 
not respect his pedantic and stiff father very 
highly, developed in old age traits that belonged 
to his father's character. This result will stand 
out more strikingly where the contrast between 
the two persons is more pronounced. A young 
man, whose fate was determined by his having 
to grow up with a good-for-nothing father, 
developed at first in spite of the father into a 
capable, trustworthy and honourable man. In 
the prime of life his character changed and from 
now on he behaved as if he had taken this same 
father as his example. So as not to lose the 
connection with our topic we must keep in mind 
that at the beginning of such a process there 
always exists an identification with the father 
from early childhood days. This gets repudiated, 
even over -compensated, and in the end again 
comes to light. 

It has long since become common knowledge 
that the experience of the first five years of child- 
hood exert a decisive influence on our life, one 
which later events oppose in vain. Much could 
be said about how these early experiences resist 
all efforts of more mature years to modify them, 
but this would not be relevant. It may not be so 
well known, however, that the strongest obsessive 


influence derives from those experiences which 
the child undergoes at a time when we have 
reason to believe his psychical apparatus to be 
incompletely fitted for accepting them. The fact 
itself cannot be doubted, but it seems so strange 
that we might try to make it easier to understand 
by a simile; the process may be compared to a 
photograph, which can be developed and made 
into a picture after a short or long interval. Here 
I may point out, however, that an imaginative 
writer, with the boldness permitted to such 
writers, made this disconcerting discovery before 
me. E. T. A. Hoffmann used to explain the 
wealth of imaginative figures that offered them- 
selves to him for his stories by the quickly 
changing pictures and impressions he had received 
during a journey in a post-chaise, lasting for 
several weeks, while he was still a babe at his 
mother's breast. What a child has experienced 
and not understood by the time he has reached 
the age of two he may never again remember, 
except in his dreams. Only through psycho- 
analytic treatment will he become aware of those 
events. At any time in later years, however, they 
may break into his life with obsessive impulsive- 
ness, direct his actions, force him to like or dislike 
people and often decide the choice of his love- 
object by a preference that so often cannot be 
rationally defended. The two points that touch 
on our problem are unmistakable. They are, 


first, the remoteness of time, 1 which is considered 
here as the really decisive factor, as, for instance, 
in the special state of memory that in these 
childhood experiences we class as " unconscious/ 5 
In this feature we expect to find an analogy with 
the state of mind that we ascribe to tradition when 
it is active in the mental emotional life of a people. 
It was not easy, it is true, to introduce the con- 
ception of the unconscious into mass psychology. 
Contributions to the phenomena we are looking 
for are regularly made by the mechanisms that 
lead to a neurosis. Here also the decisive experi- 
ences in early childhood exert a lasting influence, 
yet in this case the stress falls not on the time, but 
on the process opposing that event, the reaction 
against it. Schematically expressed it is so. As 
a consequence of a certain experience there arises 
an instinctual demand which claims satisfaction. 
The Ego forgoes this satisfaction, either because it 
is paralysed by the excessiveness of the demand 
or because it recognizes in it a danger. The first 
of these reasons is the original one ; both end in 
the avoidance of a dangerous situation. The Ego 
guards against this danger by repression. The 

1 Here also a poet may speak for us. To explain his attachment 
he imagines 

Ach du warst in abgelebten Zeiten 
Meine Schwester oder meine Frau. 

Goethe, Vol. IV of the Weimar Edition, p. 97. 

(For in previous lives we both have passed through 
You, Love, were my sister or my wife.) 


excitation becomes inhibited in one way or other; 
the incitement, with the observations and percep- 
tions belonging to it, is forgotten. This, however, 
does not bring the process to an end; either the 
instinct has kept its strength, or it will regain it 
or it is reawakened by a new situation. It renew* 
its claim and since the way to normal satisfac- 
tion is barred by what we may call the scar tissue 
of repression it gains at some weak point ne\\ 
access to a so-called substitutive satisfaction 
which now appears as a symptom, without the 
acquiescence and also without the comprehensior 
of the ego. All phenomena of symptom -formatior 
can be fairly described as " the return of the 
repressed." The distinctive character of them 
however, lies in the extensive distortion the 
returning elements have undergone, comparec 
with their original form. Perhaps the objection 
will be raised here that in this last group of fact* 
we have deviated too much from the similarity 
with tradition. We shall feel no regret, however, 
if this has led us nearer to the problems oi 
instinctual renunciation. 

8. The Historical Truth 

We have made all these psychological digressions 
to make it more credible that the religion oJ 
Moses exercised influence on the Jewish people 
Only when it had become a tradition. We have 


scarcely achieved more than a probability. Yet 
let us assume we have succeeded in proving this 
conclusively; the impression would still remain 
that we had satisfied only the qualitative factor 
of our task, not the quantitative as well. To all 
matters concerning the creation of a religion 
and certainly to that of the Jewish one pertains 
something majestic, which has not so far been 
covered by our explanations. Some other element 
should have part in it: one that has few analogies 
and nothing quite like it, something unique and 
commensurate with that which has grown out of 
it, something like religion itself. 

Let us see if we can approach our subject from 
the reverse side. We understand that primitive 
man needs a God as creator of the world, as head 
of his tribe, and as one who takes care of him. 
This God takes his place behind the dead fathers 
of whom tradition still has something to relate. 
Man in later times of our time, for instance 
behaves similarly. He also remains infantile and 
needs protection, even when he is fully grown; 
he feels he cannot relinquish the support of his 
God. So much is indisputable, but it is not so 
easily to be understood why there must be only 
one God, why just the progress from Henotheism 
to Monotheism acquires such an overwhelming 
significance. It is true, as we have mentioned 
before, that the believer participates in the 
greatness of his God and the more powerful the 


Jod the surer the protection he can bestow. The 
power of a God, however, need not presuppose 
his being an only God: many peoples only 
glorified their chief god the more if he ruled over 
a multitude of inferior gods; he was not the less 
great because there were other gods than He. 
It also meant sacrificing some of the intimate 
relationship if the God became universal and 
cared equally for all lands and peoples. One had, 
so to speak, to share one's God with strangers and 
had to compensate oneself for that by believing 
that one was favoured by him. The point could 
be made that the conception of an Only God 
signifies a step forward in spirituality; this point, 
however, cannot be estimated so very highly. 

The true believer knows of a way adequately to 
fill in this obvious gap in motivation. He says 
that the idea of an Only God has had this over- 
whelming effect on mankind because it is part of 
eternal truth, which, hidden for so long, has at 
last come to light and has swept all before it. 
We have to admit that at last we have an element 
of an order commensurate to the greatness of 
the subject as well as to that of the success of its 

I also should like to accept this solution. 
However, I have my misgivings. The religious 
argument is based on an optimistic and idealistic 
premiss. The human intellect has not shown 
itself elsewhere to be endowed with a very good 


scent for truth, nor has the human mind dis- 
played any special readiness to accept truth. On 
the contrary, it is the general experience that the 
human intellect errs very easily without our 
suspecting it at all, and that nothing is more 
readily believed than what regardless of the 
truth meets our wishes and illusions half-way. 
That is why our agreement needs modifying. 
I too should credit the believer's solution with 
containing the truth; it is not, however, the 
material truth, but an historical truth. I would 
claim the right to correct a certain distortion 
which this truth underwent on its re -emergence. 
That is to say : I do not believe that one supreme 
great God " exists " to-day, but I believe that in 
primaeval times there was one person who must 
needs appear gigantic and who, raised to the 
status of a deity, returned to the memory of men. 
Our supposition was that the religion of Moses 
was discarded and partly forgotten and that later 
on it forced itself on to the notice of the people 
as a tradition. I make the assumption that this 
process was the repetition of an earlier one. 
When Moses gave to his people the conception 
of an Only God it was not an altogether new 
idea, for it meant the re -animation of primaeval 
experience in the human family that had long 
ago faded from the conscious memory of mankind. 
The experience was such an important one, how- 
ever, and had produced, or at least prepared, 


such far-reaching changes in the life of man, that, 
I cannot help thinking, it must have left some 
permanent trace in the human soul something 
comparable to a tradition. 

The psycho-analyses of individuals have taught 
us that their earliest impressions, received at a 
time when they were hardly able to talk, manifest 
themselves later in an obsessive fashion, although 
those impressions themselves are not consciously 
remembered. We feel that the same must hold 
good for the earliest experiences of mankind. 
One result of this is the emergence of the con- 
ception of one great God. It must be recognized 
as a memory, a distorted one, it is true, but never- 
theless a memory. It has an obsessive quality; 
it simply must be believed. As far as its distortion 
goes it may be called a delusion; in so far as it 
brings to light something from the past it must 
be called truth. The psychiatric delusion also 
contains a particle of truth; the patient's con- 
viction issues from this and extends to the whole 
delusional fabrication surrounding it. 

The following pages contain a scarcely altered 
repetition of what I said in the first section. In 
1912 I tried in my book Totem and Taboo to 
reconstruct the ancient situation from which all 
these effects issued. In that book I made use of 
certain theoretical reflections of Charles Darwin, 
Atkinson, and especially Robertson Smith, and 
combined them with findings and suggestions 


from psycho -analytic practice. From Darwin I 
borrowed the hypothesis that men originally 
lived in small hordes ; each of the hordes stood 
under the rule of an older male, who governed 
by brute force, appropriated all the females and 
belaboured or killed all the young males, includ- 
ing his own sons. From Atkinson I received the 
suggestion that this patriarchal system came to an 
end through a rebellion of the sons, who united 
against the father, overpowered him and together 
consumed his body. Following Robertson Smith's 
totem theory I suggested that this horde, pre- 
viously ruled by the father, was followed by a 
totemistic brother clan. In order to be able to 
live in peace with one another the victorious 
brothers renounced the women for whose sake 
they had killed the father, and agreed to practise 
exogamy. The power of the father was broken 
and the families regulated by matriarchy. The 
ambivalence of the sons towards the father 
remained in force during the whole further 
development. Instead of the father a certain 
animal was declared the totem; it stood for their 
ancestor and protecting spirit, and no one was 
allowed to hurt or kill it. Once a year, however, 
the whole clan assembled for a feast at which the 
otherwise revered totem was torn to pieces and 
eaten. No one was permitted to abstain from this 
feast; it was the solemn repetition of the father- 
murder, in which social order, moral laws and 


religion had had their beginnings. The cor- 
respondence of the totem feast (according to 
Robertson Smith's description) with the Christian 
Communion has struck many authors before 

I still adhere to this sequence of thought. I 
have often been vehemently reproached for not 
changing my opinions in later editions of my 
book, since more recent ethnologists have without 
exception discarded Robertson Smith's theories 
and have in part replaced them by others which 
differ extensively. I would reply that these 
alleged advances in science are well known to me. 
Yet I have riot been convinced either of their 
correctness or of Robertson Smith's errors. Con- 
tradiction is not always refutation; a new theory 
does not necessarily denote progress. Above all, 
however, I am not an ethnologist, but a psycho- 
analyst. It was my good right to select from 
ethnological data what would serve me for my 
analytic work. The writings of the highly gifted 
Robertson Smith provided me with valuable 
points of contact with the psychological material 
of analysis and suggestions for the use of it. I 
cannot say the same of the work of his opponents. 

9. The Historical Development 

I cannot reproduce here the contents of Totem 
and Taboo, but I must try to account for the long 


interval that took place between the events 
which we suggested happened in primaeval times 
and the victory of monotheism in historical times. 
After the combination of brother clan, matriarchy, 
exogamy and totemism had been established 
there began a development which may be 
described as a slow " return of the repressed. 55 
The term " repressed 55 is here used not in its 
technical sense. Here I mean something past, 
vanished and overcome in the life of a people, 
which I venture to treat as equivalent to repressed 
material in the mental life of the individual. In 
what psychological form the past existed during 
its period of darkness we cannot as yet tell. It is 
not easy to translate the concepts of individual 
psychology into mass psychology, and I do not 
think that much is to be gained by introducing 
the concept of a " collective " unconscious the 
content of the unconscious is collective anyhow, 
a general possession of mankind. So in the mean- 
time the use of analogies must help us out. The 
processes we study here in the life of a people are 
very similar to those we know from psycho - 
pathology, but still they are not quite the same. 
We must conclude that the mental residue of those 
primaeval times has become a heritage which, 
with each new generation, needs only to be 
awakened, not to be re-acquired. We may think 
here of the example of speech symbolism, which 
certainly seems to be inborn. It originates in the 


time of speech development, and it is familiar to 
all children without their having been specially 
instructed. It is the same in all peoples in spite 
of the differences in language. What we may still 
lack in certainty we may acquire from other 
results of psycho -analytic investigations. We 
learn that our children in a number of significant 
relationships do not react as their own experiences 
would lead us to expect, but instinctively, like 
animals; this is explicable only by phylogenetic 

The return of the repressed proceeds slowly; 
it certainly does not occur spontaneously, but 
under the influence of all the changes in the 
conditions of life that abound throughout the 
history of civilization. I can give here neither a 
survey of the conditions on which it depends nor 
any more than a scanty enumeration of the stages 
in which the return proceeds. The father became 
again the head of the family, but he was no 
longer omnipotent as the father of the primaeval 
horde had been. In clearly recognizable transi- 
tional stages the totem animal was ousted by the 
god. The god, in human form, still carried at 
first the head of an animal ; later on he was wont 
to assume the guise of the same animal. Still 
later the animal became sacred to him and his 
favourite companion or else he was reputed to 
have slain the animal, when he added its name 
to his own. Between the totem animal and the 


god the hero made his appearance; this was 
often an early stage of deification. The idea of a 
Highest Being seems to have appeared early; at 
first it was shadowy and devoid of any connection 
with the daily interests of mankind. As the tribes 
and peoples were knit together into larger unities 
the gods also became organized into families and 
hierarchies. Often one of them was elevated to 
be the overlord of gods and men. The next step, 
to worship only one God, was taken hesitatingly, 
and at long last the decision was made to 
concede all power to one God only and not to 
suffer any other gods beside him. Only then was 
the grandeur of the primaeval father restored; 
the emotions belonging to him could now be 

The first effect of the reunion with what men 
had long missed and yearned for was overwhelm- 
ing and exactly as the tradition of the law -giving 
on Mount Sinai depicts it. There was admiration, 
awe and gratitude that the people had found 
favour in His eyes: the religion of Moses knows of 
only these positive feelings towards the Father - 
God. The conviction that His power was 
irresistible, the subjection to His will, could not 
have been more absolute with the helpless, 
intimidated son of the father of the horde than 
they were here; indeed, they become fully com- 
prehensible only by the transformation into the 
primitive and infantile milieu. Infantile feelings 


are far more intense and inexhaustibly deep than 
are those of adults; only religious ecstasy can 
bring back that intensity. Thus a transport of 
devotion to God is the first response to the return 
of the Great Father. 

The direction of this Father religion was thus 
fixed for all time, but its development was not 
thereby finished. Ambivalency belongs to the 
essence of the father -son relationship ; it had to 
happen that in the course of time the hostility 
should be stirred which in ancient times had 
spurred the sons to slay their admired and 
dreaded father. In the religion of Moses itself 
there was no room for direct expression of the 
murderous father-hate. Only a powerful reaction 
to it could make its appearance: the conscious- 
ness of guilt because of that hostility, the bad 
conscience because one had sinned against God 
and continued so to sin. This feeling of guiltiness, 
which the Prophets incessantly kept alive and 
which soon became an integral part of the 
religious system itself, had another, superficial, 
motivation which cleverly veiled the true origin 
of the feeling. The people met with hard times; 
the hopes based on the favour of God were slow in 
being fulfilled; it became not easy to adhere to 
the illusion, cherished above all else, that they 
were God's chosen people. If they wished to keep 
happiness, then the consciousness of guilt because 
they themselves were such sinners offered a 


welcome excuse for God's severity. They deserved 
nothing better than to be punished by Him, 
because they did not observe the laws; the need 
for satisfying this feeling of guilt, which coming 
from a much deeper source was insatiable, made 
them render their religious precepts ever and ever 
more strict, more exacting, but also more petty. 
In a new transport of moral asceticism the Jews 
imposed on themselves constantly increasing 
instinctual renunciation, and thereby reached 
at least in doctrine and precepts ethical heights 
that had remained inaccessible to the other 
peoples of antiquity. Many Jews regard these 
aspirations as the second main characteristic, and 
the second great achievement, of their religion. 
Our investigation is intended to show how it is 
connected with the first one, the conception of 
the one and only God. The origin, however, of 
this ethics in feelings of guilt, due to the repressed 
hostility to God, cannot be gainsaid. It bears the 
characteristic of being never concluded and never 
able to be concluded with which we are familiar 
in the reaction -formations of the obsessional 

The further development transcends Judaism. 
Other elements re-emerging from the drama 
enacted around the person of the primaeval 
father were in no way to be reconciled with the 
Mosaic religion. The consciousness of guilt in 
that epoch was no longer restricted to the Jews; 


it had seized all Mediterranean peoples as a 
vague discomfort, a premonition of misfortune 
the reason for which no one knew. Modern 
history speaks of the ageing of antique culture. 
I would surmise that it has apprehended only 
some of the casual and adjuvant causes for the 
mood of dejection then prevailing among the 
peoples. The lightening of that oppression 
proceeded from the Jews. Although food for the 
idea had been provided by many suggestive 
hints from various quarters, it was, nevertheless, 
in the mind of a Jew, Saul of Tarsus, who as a 
Roman citizen was called Paul, that the percep- 
tion dawned: "it is because we killed God the 
Father that we are so unhappy.' 5 It is quite clear 
to us now why he could grasp this truth in no 
other form but in the delusional guise of the glad 
tidings: " we have been delivered from all guilt 
since one of us laid down his life to expiate our 
guilt. 55 In this formulation the murder of God 
was, of course, not mentioned, but a crime that 
had to be expiated by a sacrificial death could 
only have been murder. Further, the connection 
between the delusion and the historical truth was 
established by the assurance that the sacrificial 
victim was the Son of God. The strength which 
this new faith derived from its source in historical 
truth enabled it to overcome all obstacles; in the 
place of the enrapturing feeling of being the 
chosen ones there came now release through 


salvation.^The fact of the father-murder, how- 
ever, had on its return to the memory of mankind 
to overcome greater obstacles than the one which 
constituted the essence of monotheism; it had to 
undergo a more extensive distortion. The un- 
mentionable crime was replaced by the tenet of 
the somewhat shadowy conception of orig- 
inal sin. 

Original sin and salvation through sacrificial 
death became the basis of the new religion 
founded by Paul. The question whether there 
was a leader and instigator to the murder among 
the horde of brothers who rebelled against the 
primaeval father, or whether that figure was 
created later by poets who identified themselves 
with the hero and was then incorporated into 
tradition, must remain unanswered. After the 
Christian doctrine had burst the confines of 
Judaism, it absorbed constituents from many 
other sources, renounced many features of pure 
monotheism and adopted in many particulars 
the ritual of the other Mediterranean peoples. 
It was as if Egypt had come to wreak her venge- 
ance on the heirs of Ikhnaton. The way in which 
the new religion came to terms with the ancient 
ambivalency in the father -son relationship is 
noteworthy. Its main doctrine, to be sure, was 
the reconciliation with God the Father, the 
expiation of the crime committed against Him ; 
but the other side of the relationship manifested 


itself in the Son who had taken the guilt on his 
shoulders becoming God himself beside the 
Father and in truth in place of the Father. 
Originally a Father religion, Christianity became 
a Son religion. The fate of having to displace the 
Father it could not escape. 

Only a part of the Jewish people accepted the 
new doctrine. Those who refused to do so are 
still called Jews. Through this decision they are 
still more sharply separated from the rest of the 
world than they were before. They had to suffer 
the reproach from the new religious community 
which besides Jews included Egyptians, Greeks, 
Syrians, Romans and lastly also Teutons that 
they had murdered God. In its full form this 
reproach would run: " they will not admit that 
they killed God, whereas we do and are cleansed 
from the guilt of it. 55 Then it is easy to understand 
what truth lies behind this reproach. Why the 
Jews were unable to participate in the progress 
which this confession to the murder of God 
betokened (in spite of all its distortion) might 
well be the subject of a special investigation. 
Through this they have, so to speak, shouldered 
a tragic guilt. They have been made to suffer 
severely for it. 

Our research has perhaps thrown some light 
on the question how the Jewish people acquired 
the qualities that characterize it. The problem 
how they could survive until to-day as an entity 


has not proved so easy to solve. One cannot, 
however, reasonably demand or expect exhaustive 
answers of such enigmas. All that I can offer is a 
simple contribution, and one which should be 
appraised with due regard to the critical limita- 
tions I have already mentioned. 


^Etiology causation, particularly of disease. 
Affect pertaining to the feeling bases of emotion. 
Ambivalence the co-existence of opposed feelings, par- 
ticularly love and hate. 
Amnesia failure of memory. 
Cathexis the process whereby ideas and mental attitudes 

are invested with a " charge " of emotion. 
Imago a German periodical devoted to the non-medical 

application of psycho-analysis. 
Instinctual pertaining to instinct. 
Masochism the obtaining of sexual pleasure in conjunction 

with suffering. 
Obsessional Neurosis a neurosis characterized by the 

alternation of obsessive (compulsive) ideas and doubts. 
Onanism auto-erotic activity, the commonest example 

being masturbation. 

Phylo-genetic pertaining to racial development. 
Reaction -formation development of a character trait that 

keeps in check and conceals another one, usually of 

the exactly opposite kind. 

Regression reversion to an earlier kind of mental life. 
Repetition-compulsion the tendency to repeat, which 

Freud considers the most fundamental characteristic of 

the mind. 
Repression the keeping of unacceptable ideas from 

consciousness, i.e. in the " unconscious." 
Sadism the obtaining of sexual pleasure through the 

infliction of suffering. 
Super-ego the self-criticizing part of the mind out of 

which the conscience develops. 
Trayma injury, bodily or mental. 



Aaron: 53. 

Abraham: 44, 72. 

Adonai: 42, 64, 65. 

Adonis: 42. 

JEgyptische Religion, Die: 37. 

^Eschylos: 180. 

^Etiology of the neuroses: 117, 

118, 119. 
After-life: 33. 
Agade: 17. 
Akhetaton (see also Ikhnaton) : 39, 


Akki: 17. 

Alexander the Great: 115. 
Allah: 149. 
Alphabet, first: 69. 
Amalek: 101. 
Ambivalency : 211,214. 
Amenhotep III: 36, 38. 
Amenhotep IV (see also Ikhnaton) : 

34, 35, 37, 38, 96- 
Amon: 13, 36, 38, 39, 41, 142. 
Amon-Re: 32. 
Amphion: 17. 
Ancestor cults: 149. 
Anti-semitism: 145, 146, 147. 
Aramcans: 48. 

Archaic heritage: 157, 158, 161. 
Astruc, Jean: 68. 
Athene: 38, 74. 
Atkinson: 130, 205, 206. 
Aton (or Atum) : 36, 37, 42, 46, 

58, 67, 96, 102, 103. 
Aton religion: 39, 40, 41, 43, 50, 

51, 81, 96, 97, 98, 113, 142, 178, 
Auerbach: 68, 102. 
Azupirani: 17. 

Baalim: 1 13, 196. 
Babylon: 17. 

Beethoven: 172. 

Bes: 32. 

Birth: 18, 19. 

Breasted,). H.: 13, 14, 35, 37, 38, 

41, 81. 

Brother clan: 206. 
Buonaparte, Napoleon: 14. 

Cambridge Ancient History: 35. 
Canaan: 44, 48, 61, 62, 74, 78, 

79, ?4, 985 99, ioi , 196. 
Cannibalism: 131, 132. 
Castration: 131, 147, 192. 
threat of : 127. 
complex: 136, 159. 
Cathexis: 156. 
Cerebral-anatomy: 156. 
Chamisso, Adelbert von: 14. 
Chosen people : 211. 
Christ: 21, 94, 140, 141, 162. 
Christian Communion: 135,141. 
Evangelists : 137. 
Religion: 142. 
Circumcision: 44, 45, 46, 48, 49, 

50, 56, 64, 65, 71, 72, 98, 100, 

141, 147, 192. 

" Collective " unconscious : 208. 
Cologne: 146. 
Compromise : no. 
Compulsiveness : 123. 
Counter-cathexis : 152, 153. 
Credo quia absurdum: 186. 
Crete: 74. 
Cyrus: 17, 20. 

Darwin, Charles: 108, 130, 205, 


Darwinian doctrine: 109. 
David, King: 68,69. 
Da Vinci, Leonardo: 172. 




Dawn of Conscience, The: 13, 14, 

35, 37, 4'> 81. 
Delusions: 137. 
Deuteronomy: 68. 
Development of the neuroses : 1 29. 
Disraeli, Benjamin: 14. 
Distortion : 113,214. 

E: 65. 

Ebjatar: 68. 

Ego: 109, 122, 125, 154, 155, 200. 

Egyptian monotheism: 35, 107. 

religion: 31, 32, 33, 34, 

Egyptian Religion, The: 50. 
"Elders of Zion": 138. 
Elohim: 65. 
Elohist: 68, 101. 
Encyclopedia Britannica, The: 68. 
Erman, A.: 37, 50. 
Ethiopia: 47, 53. 
Euphrates: 17. 
Evans, A. J.: 74, 114. 
Evolution: 108. 
Exile: 41, 69. 
Exodus: 30, 47, 48, 52, 54, 57, 60, 

65, 66, 71, 78, 98, 99, 

100, 110, 176. 
Book of: 12, 71, 79. 
Exogamy: 132, 188, 191, 206, 


Exposure myth: 21, 22, 23. 
Ezra: 69, 74. 

Falcon: 40. 
Falsification : 1 1 1 . 
Family romance : 1 8. 
Father-hate: 211. 

-murder: 131, 162, 206, 

-religion: 141. 

-son-relationship : 211,214. 

substitute: 143. 

Feelings of guilt: 138,143,212. 
Finns: 114. 

Fixation: 122, 123, 124, 125, 136. 
Flaubert: 80. 
Frazer, Sir James: 144. 

Galton, A.: 16. 
Genesis of the neuroses : 1 1 8. 
German National Socialism: 90, 

German people: 90,114. 
Gilgamesh: 17. 
Godfrey: 74. 
Gods of Greece, The: 162. 
Goethe: 144, 172, 198, 200. 
Golden Age, the: 115. 
Golden Bough, The : 1 44. 
Golden calf, the: 77. 
Gosen: 47. 

Gospel of salvation: 139. 
Greek people : 1 05, 1 1 3, 1 1 4. 
Gressmann, Hugo: 59, 65. 

Hannibal: 74. 

Haremhab: 39, 48, 78, 97. 

Hebrews : 48, 80. 

Heine: 50. 

Heliopolis: 35, 37, 42, 96. 

Henotheism: 202. 

Heracles: 17. 

Heretic King: 35, 97. 

Hero: 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 

24, 58, 140, 141, 214. 
Herod, King: 21. 
Herodotus: 44, 49, 56, 69. 
Hexateuch: 65, 68. 
History of Egypt, The: 13, 35, 38, 


Hoffmann, E. T. A.: 199. 
Holy People: 49. 
Homer: 114, 115. 
Horror of swine: 49. 
Horus: 49. 
Hosea: 59. 
Hyksos period: 47. 

Id: 154, 155, 156, 162. 

Identification: 127, 129, 140. 

Ikhnaton: 38, 39, 40, 41, 43, 46, 
47> 4**, 50, 5 J > 5*> 76, 81, 9 6 > 97, 
98, 101, 104, 142, 175, 214. 

Imago: 15, 89, 164. 

Imperialism: 36, 95, 105. 

Inbreeding: 191. 

Incest: 132. 

fear of: 191. 
taboo of: 190. 

India: 50. 

Infantile amnesia: 120, 121. 

Instinctual renunciation : 178, 183, 
185, 187, 189, 192, 

2OI, 212. 

satisfaction: 184. 



Isaac: 72. 
Isis: 49. 

Israel in der Wttste: 144. 

Israeliten und ihre NachbarMmme, 

Die: 55, 56, 57, 58. 
Istar: 17. 
Italian people: go. 

J: 65,68. 

Jabne: 182. 

Jacob: 44, 72. 

Jahu: 102. 

Jahve: 37, 55, 57, 58, 61, 63, 64, 
65, 66, 67, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 77> 
80, 81, 82, 98, 100, 102, 103, 
104, 105, 106, 113, 116, 149, 
176, 196. 

Jahvist: 68, 100, 101. 

JE: 68. 

Jehu: 65. 

Jerusalem: 102. 

Jethro: 56, 66. 

Jewish character: 167,194. 
god: 37. 
history: 84, 85, 100, 105, 

1 06. 

monotheism: 42, 51, 95, 

107, 109. 

people: 20, 21, 24, 29, 31, 
49> 5, 59, 60, 61, 62, 73, 
76, 79, 83, 99, 101, 102, 
103, no, 112, 137, 138, 
i39> i43> J 45> 1 66, 1 68, 
175, 176, 185, 187, 194, 
196, 201, 215. 
religion: 31,33,41,485465 
82, 83, 106, 1 10, 112, 
116, 139, 141, 142, 143, 
148, 149, 196, 202. 
tradition: 50, 99. 

Jochanaan: 65, 74. 

Jochanaan ben Sakkai, Rabbi: 

Jordan: 60, 61, 66. 

Joseph : 1 68. 

Josephus, Flavius: 20, 47, 52. 

Joshua: 56, 65. 

Judisches Lexikon : 12. 

Jupiter: 73. 

Justice: 81, 82, 104. 

Kama: 17. 
Knossos: 74. 

Latency: no, 112, 117, 121, 124, 
125, 127, 128, 129, 137. 

Lays of Ancient Rome : 115. 

Levites: 20, 62, 63, 64, 79, 84, 101. 

Life and Times of Akhnaton, The: 40, 

Maat: 32, 35, 81, 82, 96. 

Macaulay: 115. 

Magic: 81, 179. 

Massa: 57. 

Matriarchy: 132, 134, 135, 206, 

Medes: 20. 

Meriba: 57. 

Meribat-Qades : 55. 

Merneptah stele: 48, 78, 79, 99. 

Mesopotamia: 36. 

Messiah: 59, 143, 144, 168. 

Meyer, E. : 20, 23, 55, 56, 57, 59, 
61, 73, 78, 98- 

Middle Ages: 141. 

Midia: 66. 

Midian: 57, 58, 64, 67, 71, 75. 

Minoan -Mycenaean culture : 114. 

Minos: 74. 

Minos, King: 114. 

Moab : i o i . 

Mohammedan religion: 148. 

Monotheism: 24, 31, 34, 35, 36, 
37, 42, 51, 80, 92, 95, 96, 101, 
104, 105, 107, 109, no, 137, 
138, 142, 143, 144, 148, 175, 

202, 214. 

Mosaic doctrine : 82, 107, 143. 

God: 81, 82, 102, 104, 


ideals : 1 04. 
law: 75, 106. 
prohibition : 1 8 1 . 
religion: 31, 33, 41, 42, 
46, 83, 101, 112, 116, 
141, 142, 178, 194, 212. 
Mose: 84. 
Moses; his name: 12, 14, 23, 31, 


his birth: 19-23. 
circumcision : 44. 
and the Exodus: 47. 
and the Jews: 47, 49, 73, 

97, 1 68, 169, 
and Pharaoh: 46, 50, 52, 

53, 76, 97- 



Moses; and God: 53, 177, 210. 
and Midian: 56, 57. 
murder of: 59, 60, 77, 79, 

98, 143, '5, 162. 
and Levites: 62, 63. 
and breaking of the tables : 


character of: 97. 
Mosessagen und die Leviten, Die: 23. 
Mose und seine Bedeutung fuer die 

israelitsch - juedische Religionsge- 

schichte: 59. 
Mose und seine zeit: 65. 
Mother-deities: 134, 142. 
Mother-fixation : 122. 
Mount Sinai: 53, 54, 66, 210. 
Myth: 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 

22, 23, 29, 46, 52, 54, 56, 72, 73, 

95, 113, 114, 131, 134. 
Mythus von der Geburt des Helden, 

Der: 15, 20. 

Narcissism: 120. 
Nehemiah: 69, 75. 
Neo-Egyptians: 54, 63. 
Nile: 12, 20, 50, 102. 
Nofertete: 36. 
Northern Syria: 42. 
Nubia: 36, 40. 

(Edipus: 17, 19. 

complex: 127, 159. 
Omnipotence of thoughts : 1 79. 
Omnipotent God : 1 74. 

On: 32, 35> 37> 5 1 * 76, 9 6 > 9 8 - 
Onanism: 128. 
Oresteia, The: 180. 
Original Sin: 139. 
Osiris: 33, 40, 41, 43. 

Palestine: 36, 48, 55, 56, 98, 99. 

Paris : 1 7. 

Passion, the: 141. 

Paul of Tarsus: 139, 141, 143, 

144, 214. 

Pentateuch: 52, 69. 
Perseus: 17. 
Persians: 69, 102. 
Pharaoh: 20, 21, 34, 36, 46, 52, 

53> 57, 77. 79> 9^, 97> 99> I 

103, 105, 137, 190. 
Phoenicians: 56. 
Phylogenetic origin: 157. 
Pinchas: 23. 

Poetry: 15, 17, 116. 

Polytheism: 33, 105, 135, 142, 


Preconscious : 152, 154, 155. 
Priestly Code : 69, 75, 107. 
Primaeval Father horde : 1 34, 1 38, 

145, 148, 151, 161, 192, 209, 210. 
Progress in spirituality: 138. 
Prophets, the: 59, 76, 84, 104, 


Ptah: 13. 
Ptolemies : 1 90. 
Punic: 74. 

Qades: 56, 57, 58, 59, 61, 63, 64, 
65, 66, 67, 71, 75, 78, 79, 81, 98, 
99, 100, no, 150. 

Ra-mose (Ramses) : 14. 

Rank, Otto: 15, 16, 17, 18, 20. 

Re: 3L>, 35,42. 

Red Sea: 54. 

Redeemer: 140, 141, 168. 

Repetition-compulsion: 122. 

Repressed Material: 129, 151, 

*52, 153, 155- 
Romans: 61, 146. 
Romulus: 17, 20. 

Sacred: 192. 

Sargon of Agade : 17. 

Schiller: 162. 

Schliemann, Heinrich: 114. 

School of the Priests : 35, 5 1 . 

Screen -memories: 120. 

Sellin, E. : 59, 60, 76, 83, 95, 98, 

112, 144. 
Set: 49. 

Shakespeare, William: 105. 
Shaw, George Bernard: 89. 
Shechem, Prince of: 45. 
Shittim: 60. 
Silo: 23. 
Sinai: 55, 98. 
Sinai-Horeb: 55, 66, 75. 
Smith, Robertson: 133, 205, 206, 


Son religion: 141. 
Soviet Russia: 89. 
Sprache des Pentateuch in ihren 

Beziehungen zum Aegyptischen : 6*- 

Sublimation: 138. 



Substitutive satisfaction : 1 84, 20 1 . 

Sumerians: 44. 

Sun God: 32, 35, 36, 37, 40, 96, 


Sun Temple: 35. 
Super-Ego: 155, 184, 185, 189. 
Symbolism: 158. 
Symptom formation: 201. 
Syria: 36, 42, 99. 

Taboo: 64, 74, 132. 

of incest: 190. 
Talmudists: 30. 
Telephos: 17. 
Tell-el-Amarna: 39, 97. 
Temple: 69. 

Ten Commandments: 66. 
Theatre, the: 141. 
Thebes: 32, 36, 38, 39, 42. 
Thothmes: 97. 

Ill: 36- 
Titus: 182. 

Topography of the psyche: 155. 
Torah: 182. 
Totem and Taboo: 85, 94, 130, 205, 


Totem animal: 133, 209. 
Totemism: 32, 133, 134, 135, 141, 

1 88, 206, 207, 208, 209. 
Tradition: 12, 62, 67, 71, 82, 83, 

85, in, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 

150, 151, 160, 201, 214. 

Tragic guilt: 140, 141, 215. 
Traumata: 84, 109, 117, 119, 120, 

122, 123, 124, 125, 127, 128, 

129, 130, 159. 
Turk: 49. 
Tutankhaton: 39. 
Twelve tribes: 80. 

Unconscious: 153, 154, 155, 200. 
memory traces : 151. 
Universal god: 37, 96, 103. 
Universalism: 36, 142. 

Vestal: 17. 

Volcano god: 55, 65, 66, 73, 74, 

Volz, Paul: 84. 

Weigall, A. : 40, 42. 

Westminster Abbey: 108. 

Wish-phantasy: 138, 140, 144. 

Womb: 18. 

Worship of the Sun: 43. 

Wuste und Gelobtes Land: 68, 102. 

Yahuda, A. S.: 63, 69. 

Zethos: 17. 
Zeus: 38, 74.